The words on the title matter


 Why does the proper titling of real estate matter?

In my law practice, this situation has come up several times:  

A couple is married.  Real estate is owned BUT only titled in one (1) of the spouse's names.  Even if they are both listed on the mortgage, only one (1) of them is on the title.  The titled owner then passes away without a Will.

Who owns the real estate?

Generally, for a husband and wife, the real estate is titled so that it passes entirely to the living spouse.  But, in our situation, the land was only titled in the name of the deceased spouse.  So, not all of the real estate passes to the living spouse.

The Tennessee statute (31-2-103) tells us that real estate solely owned by the one (1) spouse immediately passes on death to his or her heirs.  The Tennessee statute (31-2-104) tells us who those heirs are.

In this instance, if the person died with one (1) spouse and one (1) child.  According to the statute, the spouse and the child now both co-own the real estate. 

Is this what the deceased wanted?  We don't know, because there wasn't a Will. 

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