How do I proceed with the sale of Mom's house now that she died?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have power of attorney for my mom. I am in the process of selling her house. She died yesterday. In her will I get the house. Do I have to put the house in my name now? Or just continue as I was and when it sells sign her name?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Any powers and responsibilities connected with your mom's power of attorney ended at her death. So as the beneficiary of the house, title must now be transferred into your name.

How the transfer happens depends on how the title is held"”and the specifics of your state law. Generally, if the property was held jointly"”say, with you and your mom as joint tenants"”then it passes directly to you. If you were named to take the house in a transfer-on-death arrangement, then you will also get it directly. You will still need to put a document on file in the local public land records showing that the co-owner has died and that you now have sole ownership of the house. To find out exactly what is required, contact the title company or the county land records office.

If the title to the house was in your mom's name alone and not subject to a transfer-on-death arrangement, it will most likely pass to you through the regular probate process. In such cases, the executor named in her will usually need to get an appraisal of the fair market value of the house at the date of death and the equity in it. The executor will be responsible for ensuring that the title transfer occurs"”and again, details of local requirements will be available from the land title company or county land records office.