Estate PlanningNovember 1, 2022

What Happens If I Do Not Change a Deed After a Parent Passes in Pennsylvania?

By: Hazen Law Group

We hear this question a lot: “What happens if I don’t change a deed after a parent passes in Pennsylvania?” The short answer is that not recording the deed makes it impossible to sell the property, get a line of credit or a mortgage. There is also the possibility of liens or judgments against the prior owners that may be attached. And, a new title needs to be issued, which can be tricky without an estate plan.

It is also essential to take care of the property and the taxes, pay the mortgage and maintain the residents until it is transferred. Get the property appraised to be informed of its true, current value.

Transferring real estate means going to probate court. However, there are exceptions. Those exceptions are:

  • The deceased filed a transfer-on-death deed designating who receives the property.
  • The deceased co-owned the property.
  • The deceased used a living trust to leave the property to someone.

If you are unsure if the deceased owned property, find the deed that transferred the property to the deceased owner. It may be a quitclaim, warranty, grant or joint-tenancy, and it should indicate how the decedent, and any co-owners, held title to the property. This information determines how the property can be transferred.

Possible Ownership Status

The decedent may have been the sole owner. There may not be a living trust or transfer-on-death deed. This means the property would probably go through probate and be transferred to an heir. Most often, who inherits the house is designated in a will. However, if there is no will, state law determines who owns the house. 

The title may indicate a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. If the co-owner is alive, they assume sole ownership of the property. Probate is unnecessary, but the new owner needs to complete some documents to clarify that the property is solely owned. The title may be tenants by the entirety. This typically indicates a married couple holding a tenancy by the entireties. A surviving spouse is now the sole owner, and probate is not necessary.

There may be a tenancy in common deed, indicating co-owners are tenants in common. It may indicate that the property they own was inherited. Each owner may name a beneficiary in their will. If there is no will, the deceased co-owner’s interest is passed to close relatives. Probate is required.

If the property is held in a trust, the most recent deed should indicate that the property was transferred to the trustee.

If the property has a transfer-on-death deed, it specifies the property’s new owner. There is some paperwork to file an affidavit and a copy of the death certificate in the land records office.

If a surviving co-owner inherits, that individual must file a statement explaining they are now a sole owner, a death certificate and have it recorded in the county land records office.

Contact a Knowledgeable Harrisburg Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning encompasses several important yet often misunderstood areas of law. At the Hazen Law Group, Attorney Marielle Hazen and her team of dedicated estate planning attorneys assist clients dealing with estate planningspecial needs planningestate administration and other legal issues confronting aging Americans and their families. 

With decades of experience assisting older Pennsylvanians, the Hazen Law Group knows how to guide their clients through even the most overwhelming issues effectively. To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation to see how we can help you with your estate planning needs, call Hazen Law Group today at 717-540-4332.

There is a path to a secure future for you & your family.