When someone passes away, then their estate has to be distributed. The problem is that without probate - with assets such as titled property or bank accounts (those that do not have a pay on death clause) - this is hard to do. This is because you cannot switch over the assets without an order from the probate court, and simply a Certificate of Death will not do. A Certificate of Death simply states that someone has passed on, but does not give you the right to really do anything in the deceased's name.
So one files probate. Once probate is filed, the Executor of the estate gets something called a Letter of Testament/Administration
(hereinafter "Letter"). This Letter will allow the Executor to switch over the assets from the deceased individual to whoever will own the property. It is like a "Power of Attorney," but from the Court. Without that Letter, there is no way to transfer titled property and switch the assets into the hands of the beneficiaries.
This is the issue with the home, and that is why probate needs to be filed, or perhaps small estate administration or some other version of it.
The problem is that once probate is filed, many lenders have an ACCELERATION CLAUSE which means that once the owner passes, the loan is accelerated and everything must be paid. In addition, even if there is no acceleration clause, the lender may be hesitant to move the property into your name - they never qualified you as an owner... only him. They may not want to refinance the property into your name.
The way to overcome that part is with the federal Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act. See here
.. "When title is transferred by inheritance to a related owner-occupant. When a relative inherits and occupies a residence, the Garn-St. Germain Law bars the lender from enforcing the due-on-sale clause. However, some lenders will try to coerce the heir into paying an unnecessary mortgage
The common law marriage may also have to be proven, but if you had lived together for 30+ years, this should not be an issue.
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