How to obtain title to inherited property

MAILBAG

Mailbag

March 30, 2003

A reader writes that he inherited a small lot on the Eastern Shore of Virginia after his mother passed away two years ago. He asked the local taxing authority what needed to be done to transfer the property to his name. He was advised of the procedure for transferring the property for tax records, which basically involved sending authorities a copy of the will.

He then began receiving and paying tax bills. He never received any deed or other documentation showing him as property owner. He asks if he should have taken further steps to obtain an actual deed or other proof of title to the land.

Dear reader:

Your mother's will needs to be admitted to probate in the jurisdiction of her residence. Once this has been done, a certified copy of the will should be filed in the appropriate court in Virginia, which is the circuit court for the place where the property is located.

This procedure is called ancillary probate. Under Virginia law, title to real property can pass by will if the will is properly admitted to an ancillary probate.

In Maryland, a different legal procedure applies. Once the decedent's will has been probated, a personal representative, named in the will, is appointed.

The personal representative has legal authority to administer the decedent's estate, including the power to distribute the real estate to the beneficiary of the will. The property is distributed by a deed, signed by the personal representative and recorded in the land records of the county where the property is located. Merely filing the will is not sufficient to transfer title to property located in Maryland.

I suggest you contact a Virginia lawyer in the county where the property is situated. He or she can assist you in making sure that your mother's will is properly probated.

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