How can I gain ownership of a home willed to me?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How can I gain ownership of a home willed to me?

My husband’s grandmother left a Will naming him the beneficiary of her house in her death in 2009. It is a typed, notarized document and my husband never had the house probated. What should he do to gain full ownership of the house? He was told he would have to have all living relative submit a letter expressing disinterest in the property. Is this necessary if he was raised by his grandmother, on the lease and mentioned in her last will and testament?

Asked on January 19, 2017 under Estate Planning, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The will has to be probated. The will is the thing which will give him the house--the other factors you mention (being on the lease--though see below; having been raised by her) are irrelevant. If he was on the TiTLE with her, as "joint tenants with right of survivorship," or JTROS, it would be different: on the death of one of the co-owners, the house would automatically become his as the surviving co-owner. But apart from that situation, the property will only become his after probate, when a court orders (e.g. in accordance with the will) that it goes to him. And if it was validly willed to him (i.e. by a will that meets all the criteria for enforceability in your state), then what  the other relatives do or do not do will not matter: a valid will controls the disposition of property after death. The best way to do this is to hire a probate attorney to help you: the probate process an be complicated and technical, and the passage of 8 years will further complicate matters.
You mention that he is on the lease--did his grandmother own the home or not? If she did, the lease is irrelevant (for purposes of ownership); if she leased the home, however, she cannot leave anything to him (though he can negotiate with the owner to keep leasing or even to offer to buy).

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