How to Get Title to Deceased Father’s House

How to Get Title to Deceased Father’s House

My father passed away and named me executor of his assets. I had bought his house from him and was paying him a mortgage. How do I get title put in my name. Thank You.


Title is the ownership of the house. When you purchased the house from your father while he was alive, title or ownership passed to you on the date of the purchase. The attorney or title company handling the closing for you should have recorded a deed from your father to you in the appropriate public record (e.g., the County Clerk's office, etc.). You should have also purchased title insurance protecting your interest in the property.

At the same closing since your father effectively loaned you some portion or all of the purchase price (purchase money mortgage) your father's attorney or the title company should have recorded a mortgage on the property securing your father's right to be repaid the amount of the loan. The recording of the mortgage was also important for you to be able to have deducting interest expense you paid your father on the mortgage. That mortgage, however, had no impact on your owning title to the house. It merely secured your father's interest in getting repaid.

Let's assume that you were the only heir of your father's estate (e.g., you mom died earlier or they were divorced and no other siblings or heirs named). On your father's death the note evidencing what you owed your father, and the mortgage (deed of trust) securing that note with a lien on the house, would be passed to you. Once you own the house (which you did from the date of your purchase) and the note (which you should have from the date of death or distribution of the note to you) you become both the obligor (borrower, creditor, etc.) and obligee (lender, debtor, etc.) and the note should be cancelled since you basically owe yourself the money! You should ask your attorney about the legal doctrine of merger (the obligation mergers into the note and ends). Even if that process were to happen automatically by operation of law when the note is distributed, there are still formalities. You should still have an attorney or title company cancel the mortgage that secured that note "of record" by filing a cancellation or satisfaction of mortgage document (or whatever else your attorney advises you to do in your area).

To properly clean up or clear the title to the property by voiding the mortgage someone (perhaps you) has to be appointed as the executor (personal representative) of your father's estate. If your father had no will then the person specified under state law for an intestacy (when no will exists) would have to be formally appointed (obtain letters of administration). This may be necessary so that someone has the authority to legally transfer the note to you and cancel it of record. If these steps are not taken they could affect your ability to refinance the property, or to eventually sell it.

You should also check with the accountant for the estate and ask whether there are any income tax issues that need to be addressed (e.g., deductibility of the interest you paid your father during his lifetime, when interest deductions would have to stop based on the discussions above, any income from relief of indebtedness, etc.).

Well, if you've made it through the above ramblings and thoughts you really should take all these ideas to an attorney in your area that is experienced with both real estate and estate administration and find out exactly what is required or recommended. Laws differ significantly from state to state, and customs of how these matters are handled also vary. Importantly, from the manner in which you question was worded it wasn't fully clear what the issue is, so the safest bet is to have a local attorney review it. Good luck.

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