One of the major goals of probate is to pass real estate owned by a deceased person to the heirs. Although real estate is only one type of asset that can pass through probate, the majority of estates contain some kind of real estate.
Estate Properties with Tangled Title
Many of our clients come from the Philadelphia area. Within the city, probate matters tend to be heavily real estate based. Because property values in Philadelphia have risen substantially in the past decade, estate properties are often the largest asset in the estate. But legal problems could surface if the deceased died many years ago and probate was not opened for the deceased.
When a deceased passes with real estate and probate is not opened, the property becomes at risk of an eventual “tangled title” situation. A common tangled title situation is when a property remains in the deceased’s name for many years and the heirs, who should receive the property, also later pass away. The property title becomes “tangled” because an estate must be opened for each person with an interest in the property who later passes away.
Multiple Estates May be Necessary for a Single Property
A tangled title situation can become extreme if a long time passes after the original owner’s death. If a deceased’s estate was not opened for decades, it is possible that estates must be opened for children and grandchildren. The more hands which are in the pot, the greater the likelihood of disputes or complications. For example, estates which have not been opened twenty years after death require special approval through an Orphan’s Court petition. Each person or estate with an interest in the property opens the potential for further roadblocks to selling or retitling the property.
The problem of opening multiple estates can be compounded when a deceased person did not leave a Will. The Will ordinarily lists the person nominated to serve as the representative of the estate. But where there is no Will, certain family members must defer their right to serve as the representative through a “renunciation”. Issues such as who will serve as the representative can open possibilities for disputes with estranged family members and cause lengthy delays.
One of the first steps to resolving tangled title is understanding who has an interest the deceased’s estate. When the deceased left a Will, the Will controls who will serve as representative and who receives shares of the estate. If a copy of the Will is available but the original is lost, a petition will be required to admit a copy of the Will into probate. If there is no Will, the estate passes according to the Pennsylvania’s intestacy law.
Estate property situations can vary from the routine to the highly complex. But no matter how complicated the estate situation, our firm uses the probate process to resolve tangled title situations.
As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:
Phone: (215) 918-4242
If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.