How a widower can add others to the deed


April 16, 2000

Dear Mr. Azreal:

Recently, my wife died and my home is in both her name and my name. I want to change that and add my daughter's and granddaughter's name to that. I was hoping to get somebody to be able to tell me what I had to do to do that.

Alfred McKittrick, Middle River

Dear Mr. McKittrick:

Since your wife has died, title to the house now belongs solely to you. When real property is owned by husband and wife, title passes automatically (by operation of law) to the surviving spouse.

To add your daughter or granddaughter as title owners, you will need to sign and record a new deed in the land records of the county where your home is located. You will have to decide the type of legal interest in the property you intend to give to these descendants.

For instance, the new deed can provide that your daughter and granddaughter will be "joint tenants" with you. When a deed properly designates co-owners as "joint tenants," title passes automatically to the survivors upon the death of one of the joint tenants.

An alternative is to sign a new deed giving your daughter and granddaughter a remainder interest in the property, but reserve in yourself the power to sell or mortgage the property during your lifetime. The advantage of this type of "life estate" deed is that you have complete control of the property during as long as you live. Your daughter and granddaughter (the "remaindermen") would take title to the property upon your death, providing you still own it.

You should also consider whether your granddaughter is a minor. If so, you may want to leave her interest in the property to a trustee, who will have legal power to deal with the property for your granddaughter's benefit until she reaches 18.

A real estate title company or attorney can assist you in preparing the appropriate deed and making sure it is properly recorded.

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