Many people wonder how to officially change a deed after they inherit property from a loved one. Naturally, they assume this will be a complicated process that mirrors the procedure for buying a house.
Purchasing property involves a lot of legal paperwork, notarizing documents and filing papers with the county clerk, who then issues a new deed. Fortunately, changing a deed after you inherit property is much easier. If you have any questions, a wills and estates lawyer can assist you.
In This Article
The Deed for Inherited Property Transfers to You Automatically
North Carolina General Statutes Section 28A-15-2(b) states: “[t]he title to real property of a decedent is vested in his heirs as of the time of his death; but the title to real property of a decedent devised under a valid probated will becomes vested in the devisees and shall relate back to the decedent’s death, subject to the provisions of G.S. 31-39.”
This means you don’t need to do anything to change the deed on a property you inherit. The deed to the property automatically transfers to you after your loved one passes away. From that point, all you would need to prove that you are the rightful owner of the property is:
- A copy of your loved one’s death certificate
- A copy of your loved one’s will awarding you the property
What if You Inherit a Property in a Different County?
If the property you inherit is in a different county in North Carolina than where your relative resided, changing the deed involves one additional step. Simply gather a copy of the death certificate and the will as specified in the section above.
Then take them to the county clerk (or registrar) for the county where the property is located. Upon receipt of those documents, the clerk will make the appropriate notation in the county’s records. From that point on, you will be recognized as the property owner.
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Can Someone Sell Your Inherited Property Without Your Knowledge or Consent?
Whenever a person creates a last will and testament, they must name an executor for their estate. The executor is the person who carries out the instructions that appear in the will. If you inherit property through the will, it cannot be sold without your consent, except to pay off the decedent’s pre-existing debts or other financial obligations.
So, for example, if your uncle had a $200,000 judgment or tax lien that was unpaid at the time of his death, and the property he left you was his only asset, the executor may sell the property to satisfy those debts. However, if there were any excess proceeds from the sale price and the outstanding debt, you would receive those proceeds.
Apart from that, the property can’t be sold without your knowledge unless your relative left you the property but also included specific instructions for the executor to sell it under certain circumstances. For example, a decedent may wish to leave a cash gift to someone but doesn’t have the funds to do it. In that case, as the property’s named owner, you would receive the additional proceeds from the sale.
If the Property Is Left to You and Someone Else, Can They Sell it Without Your Knowledge or Consent?
If you are named on the title to the property, it cannot be sold without your approval. That means you must sign the purchase and sale agreement and the new deed along with your other relative who is on the title for the sale to be valid. You also can’t sell it without their approval.
This rule applies regardless of how many people are on the title. So, if the property was left to you and your four siblings, all of you would have to sign the purchase and sale agreement and the new title if you sell the property.
In cases where one or all the relatives on the title don’t agree on a sale, one or more of them may try to stop the sale by filing a document in court known as a partition or sale in lieu of partition (NC Gen. Stat. § 46A-75).
This is a time-consuming and expensive process. It can often devastate family bonds and create ill will between people that takes years to ease. In some cases, the bad feelings and tensions brought about by such a situation are never resolved, and the family is fraught with tension forever. However, there is a way you can avoid this.
Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney
The North Carolina probate and will process can be confusing and challenging, both for people who are creating wills and the beneficiaries of those wills. One potential way to avoid some of these problems is through proper estate planning. In some cases, a will may not be your best option.
A wills and estate attorney from Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can help you with estate planning. If you are considering options for how to divide your assets, please contact our office and speak to a member of our team. We would be happy to walk you through your options and help make your division of assets as straightforward and painless as possible for your loved ones.
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