Rights of Survivorship

A few years ago my father died of cancer. He had a will which left everything to my mother. Everybody thought that everything was okay until a few years later when my mother discovered that she owned only 50% of her house. Investigation into the matter revealed that the deed to my parents’ house did not include provisions for rights of survivorship, and that in Minnesota a will is not enough for that. The deed has to include the right language to make the transfer happen, which is often just appending “with rights of survivorship” after your names on the deed.

Since 50% of her property was owned by the state of Minnesota she needed to go to probate court to get it back. Trips to court are best done with lawyers. Lawyers cost money, and court appearances cause stress, and most people try to avoid all of this.

My family’s advice to anybody buying a house with another person: make sure you ask explicitly about rights of survivorship. Other states might be different in their wording, but whatever it is just make sure that if something happens to one of you the other one won’t have to go to probate court later because of four missing words.

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  • That’s one of the few good things about Texas. It’s a community property state, so all property is automatically left to the surviving spouse.

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