What to do if my father recently passed and his house is being sold but it is still in his first wife’s name?

She has not lived there in over 30 years. Since then my father has re-married and divorced. He has 4 children. Is the first wife still entitled to half?

Asked on September 17, 2012 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Her name on the title creates the impression that she would be entitled to the house or a portion of the proceeds of the sale.  However, what will finally determine wether or not she can make a claim is their divorce decree and his will.  Mostly likely he was awarded the house in the fianl decree since she's been out of it for 30 years.  If he was awarded the house in the divorce, then someone with the estate needs to go "clear up the title" and get it in the estate's name... or at least make sure the purchaser and closing company have the records that show the passing of all ownership to him.  With this verifcation, title can clearly pass to the new owner.

The second factor is your dad's will if he had one.  If he was awarded the house in the divorce, then he would have had the right to designate in his will who he wanted to receive the house.  If he did not have a will, and he was awarded the house in the divorce, then his first wife would not be entitled to have of the house or proceeds therefrom.

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