What are my rights if my name is on a deed? My father put my name on the deed to his home but when he died his widow sold the house without me, now what?

Q: Before my father died he added my name to the deed on his house which was mortgage free. He and his wife were already on title. After he died, his widow sold the house without my knowledge and kept the money. 

Am I entitled to part of the money from the sale? She kept it all and moved to another state.

What Are My Rights If My Name Is on a Deed?

A: Well, your question poses some intriguing questions. Your stepmother was able to sell the home without your signature so the question is whether your name was really on the title to the home or not. 

We see that quite often. Parents say they added a child’s name but they don’t file the right papers or never actually do it. Sometimes the documents really do get prepared and are even shown to a child but nothing is ever done with that document that formalizes it or makes it legal. After your dad showed you that document, the deed should have been filed or recorded in the office that handles the filing or recording of land documents.

Was the New Deed Filed After You Signed It?

Now if your father showed you the document but never filed the deed, it’s questionable whether you became an actual owner of the home. Say he changed his mind and decided not to file the deed. If this happened, you were never an owner and were never entitled to any money from the sale of the home.

It becomes a trickier situation if your dad showed you the document and filed it. Once filed, any buyer, title company and settlement agent should have known that you were an owner and would have wanted to see your signature on the deed conveying ownership to the new buyer. We’ve had readers tell us that relatives have forged their names on the documents. If your name was forged, we wonder who the notary was that put their name on the deed to show that you had signed the document.

Obviously, if your name was forged, that’s fraud. And, you should have a right to go after the person that forged your signature and for any rights you had in the home. As we said, if your name was not forged and your name did not show up on the title to the home, you may be out of luck. In some states, you could be an owner even if the deed was not recorded. The problem is that you have various obstacles to overcome in proving your ownership, in proving that your stepmother knew of your ownership and that the buyers likewise knew you were an owner. 

What Should You Do Now?

Given all of this, you need to get more information to determine the facts. Saying that your father put you on the title is not enough. You’ll need to find the deed that put you on the title and know that the deed was recorded. Once you have that information, then you need to figure out how the title to the property passed to a new buyer without your knowledge.

You may be able to find many of these documents on your own, but you need some knowledge of real estate, how documents get recorded and to know what you are looking for. You might need help. You can hire a real estate attorney to help you out or someone else with sufficient knowledge to get to the bottom of your situation. Once you get the facts, you can decide what to do and whether there is anything you can do. 

Good luck. It’s a lousy thing to go through after the death of your dad.

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