If someone dies without children, what happens to a house that they co-own?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If someone dies without children, what happens to a house that they co-own?

My father was remarried and owned a house. He left half to my brother and I and half to his wife when he died; she died 3 months later and didn’t have any kids. No one has been staying there for over 3 years. What shall I do to legally solve this matter and avoid any future problems? The neighbor across the street has seen someone moving furniture out a couple of times. Who owns the house legally? Should I get a locksmith to change the locks as well?

Asked on February 16, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Texas


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You and your brother are at least partial owners, so you need to exercise possession of the house.  Yes... change the locks and protect the property.  You have that right because you are an owner. 
The next issue is how to clear up any title issues.  Exact ownership will depend on any title documents and how your father's will was worded.  If the documents are such that you and your brother have the right of survivorship, then the property may have passed automatically to the two of you.  If it didn't, then you may need to probate the wife's estate to clear the title. 

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