Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

February 27, 2009

Real Estate and the Deceased Spouse

by @ 4:04 pm. Filed under Real Estate

We often receive calls from folks asking us to take the name of a deceased spouse “off the deed.” In an effort to better inform people in this situation, we have prepared an information sheet that explains what actually happens. Here’s the text:

In Massachusetts, married couples almost always own their home as “tenants by the entirety” which is a type of joint ownership that carries with it a right of survivorship. As tenants by the entirety, each spouse owns the entire property subject only to the other spouse’s interest in the house. On the death of one spouse, the entire ownership remains in the survivor and the interest of the deceased spouse disappears.

To show this change in ownership in the records at the registry of deeds, the surviving spouse should record a death certificate of the deceased spouse. The registry will create a link between the deed showing the tenancy by the entirety and the death certificate. The two documents taken together show that ownership of the property resides solely with the surviving spouse.

The registry requires an original death certificate (i.e., not a photocopy) and the filing fee is $75 payable in cash or check (made payable to “Registry of Deeds”). The death certificate can be recorded by bringing it to the registry or by mailing it to the above address (if mailing, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope so we can return the original to you).

We often receive calls from individuals who have just lost a spouse telling us that their insurer, bank or town assessor insists that the decedent’s name be “taken off the deed.” Such a request is often based on a misunderstanding of Massachusetts property law since nothing is ever taken “off a deed” and, in the case of spouses owning property as a tenants by the entirety, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole owner of the property so there is no need to create a new deed.

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