Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Obtaining a clear deed to joint property after other parties death

Prior to our marriage I bought property in Trinity Co. California and put it in my future husband and my names. We later married in California and then divorced in Hawaii but failed to deal with the property in the divorce. I have been paying the property taxes for over 20 years now. I recently discovered my ex-husband comitted suicide in California in 1996. His death certificate lists a wife in Kansas but I have not been able to locate her. I live in Washington State. The property is only worth about $3,500. Is there a low cost way to get clear title? I don't want to improve or keep paying taxes on the land if I don't have clear title. If I cannot get clear title and stop paying the property taxes will it affect my credit?

Asked on 7/17/01, 5:19 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

Re: Obtaining a clear deed to joint property after other parties death

There are several ways you could have "put it in your future husband's and your names." Was it a joint tenancy or tenants in common (and the deed should show this)? If it was a joint tenancy, you became sole owner of the property when your ex-husband died. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the deceased tenant's interest passes, not to the tenant's lawfully designated beneficiaries or heirs, but to the surviving joint tenant. A (relatively) simple filing with the county clerk would clear title. Get a certified copy of the death certificate and see a real estate lawyer. This should not be expensive.

If you were tenants in common, however, your ex could have bequeathed the property to whomever he chose, which means you might still have a co-owner. In that case, taxes and liabilities are joint and several and if you don't make payments, it might affect your credit rating.

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Answered on 7/18/01, 4:51 pm

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