Q: My siblings and I received property from our mother through a quit claim deed. She has since died. The property is in West Virginia and we live in Ohio. The deed was not signed by us and was never recorded through the local Clerk of Courts.

Is this quit claim deed valid? If it is, which state law has precedence? West Virginia, where the property is and where my mother lived, or Ohio? Our brother passed away two years ago, his wife claims that she inherited his one-seventh ownership of the property. She does not want to relinquish rights and we are looking for a loop hole.

A: From your question, you seem to imply that your sister-in-law has a claim to the property if the quit claim deed is valid, but if the quit claim deed is not valid, she might be out of luck.

It’s unfortunate that you feel the need to find a “loop hole” to deprive your sister-in-law of her share of the property.

I guess you need to see what your mother’s intent was when she gave all of you the property and signed the quit claim deed. If her intent was to have each of her kids to have a piece of her property and now due to terrible circumstances one of your brothers has died, his wife would probably be entitled to his share of the home.

You might be right that there may be a loop hole for you to use. But you’ll need to consult with a real estate attorney in West Virginia to determine if the quit claim deed that was unrecorded during the lifetime of the grantor is still valid.

In some states, if a deed is not recorded promptly after delivery to the recipient, that deed could be presumed to be invalid or other people that might claim an interest in the home might have a claim against the home which could trump the ownership interest of the people named on the deed.

What some people don’t realize is that a properly prepared and delivered quit claim deed will transfer the ownership of a home even if the deed isn’t recorded. The key, however, is that some jurisdictions penalize the party that fails to record the deed. Furthermore, if the deed was prepared, signed but never delivered to the intended recipients, you might be able to claim that the deed was invalid, particularly if the proper documentation that might have been necessary for the quit claim deed was never signed by your mother.

Some states have laws in place that will protect other purchasers of the property if they record a deed for the property prior to a deed that floats around without ever being recorded.

Some states also want to collect taxes and other fees on the recording of the deed. And in some other jurisdictions, when the deed is recorded, property taxes can increase substantially for the new owner.

Due to all of these issues and state laws, you need to determine if anything happened to the title to the home from the time your mother executed the quit claim deed to the time of her death. You’ll also need to determine if the executor of her will in West Virginia has taken any action in court to dispose of the property.

When your mom died, her will, if she had one, would have dictated who received what share of her assets. If she left all of her assets in her will to her children equally, then your late brother would have received a share and it’s likely that his wife, or, at the very least, your brother’s and wife’s children, would have inherited his share of the property after his death.

If your mom died intestate, or without a will, the laws of the state in which she died would determine who received what assets.

I’m sorry, but there is no simple answer to your question. You’ll need to do some additional research on the title to your mom’s home to see if anything changed on the status of the probate of your mom’s will, and on the status of the quit claim deed.

Nov. 12, 2008.