When a parent dies, property is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased if she left a will, or based on the laws and practices that govern such transfers in that particular state. In most cases, the estate will have to go through the probate process before you can officially get the property in your own name.
Check the Will
Whether or not you'd get property in your name upon the death of a parent depends on the will. If you were left the property, or if you co-owned the property with the deceased, you'll have a good chance of being awarded the property when the estate's assets are distributed. This isn't a sure thing in all states, however, particularly if the will was created without the benefit of legal advice. In community property states, such as Texas, a surviving spouse may get the rights to property acquired while they were married. This means that if your parent remarries, and buys a house with his new spouse, his portion of the property rights may transfer to his spouse automatically, even if he intended to leave his share to you.
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If the will of your parent is unclear, or if you're concerned that the probate process may threaten your rights to your parent's property, an attorney can be a valuable ally to help you protect your rights and navigate through the process.
If you co-owned the home with your parent -- for example, if your mother added your name to the deed before passing away -- what happens next depends on your specific arrangement and state law. Properties owned with rights of survivorship automatically pass to the remaining heir. You can formally take her name off the title by following your local procedure for doing so. If, however, you were tenants in common, the deceased's portion of the property will be passed to designated heirs through the probate process.
Some states offer a transfer-on-death deed that allows a parent to designate one or more beneficiaries to inherit their home after they die. It names the current owner and describes the property, then documents who the property will be transferred to. An additional statement on the deed confirms that the transfer won't take place until after the original owner's death.
Transferring the Deed
The deed transfer process is governed by state and local regulations. You may have to have an executor's deed, in which the executor of the will transfers ownership rights to you on the deceased's behalf. You'll need to take that, a certified copy of the death certificate and any other documentation required to the local courthouse or government office that handles real estate property transfers. Once all the documentation has been received and you pay the required fees, you'll receive a clean copy of the title without the deceased's name.
If the next-of-kin is a minor child, transferring the property can become more complex. A guardian may be appointed to manage the child's inheritance, including property, until she becomes of legal age. As a result, property initially may be transferred to a custodian under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. The guardian may be appointed by the deceased in a testamentary appointment, or appointed by the court.
State Laws Vary
Getting the title to a property as directed by the wishes of the deceased, or by the probate court if there is no will, may qualify as a transfer of ownership according to state guidelines. However in some states, such as Michigan, this would not be considered a transfer of ownership if the property passes to a child or grandchild, as long as the property isn't being used for commercial purposes.