Titles to Houses
A house title is a registration of the ownership of a property. When you buy a property, the property title is transferred to your name to establish your ownership rights. A house can be owned by one person or can be owned jointly by multiple people. All owners must be listed on a house's title. Because your name was not on the title prior to your husband's death, the house was not considered your property at that time.
The Probate Process
When your husband dies his assets will be distributed to his heirs according to his estate plan. Most people in the U.S. base their estate plans on a will. A will lists the decedent's assets and his desire for the distribution of these assets at his death. This process is known as probate. During probate a court reviews your husband's will to ensure it is valid and that assets are distributed according to the will. If you inherit your house through you husband's will, you become the new legal owner and can register the change in title through your home's title company.
Dying Without a Will
If your husband dies without a will, or intestate, the distribution of his assets becomes more complicated. When a person dies without a will a probate court decides on the distribution of his assets according to the particular state's intestacy laws. As a surviving widow you have a claim to your deceased's husband estate in all states. The court will grant you at least a partial ownership of the house along with your deceased husband's other assets. You may also need to split the inheritance with your deceased husband's children and other family members.
Survivors' Homestead Rights
If the inherited home is your current residence, you have additional rights as a surviving widow under state homestead rights. Under homestead rights, no matter how your husband bequeathed the house you have an ownership claim to it. Under homestead rights, you are allowed to live in your deceased husband's house until you remarry or move out of it. Once you move and sell the property, you are entitled to a portion of the house's sale proceeds.