What Is a Deed of Distribution?

A deed of distribution helps determine to whom a home should be awarded after the homeowner's death.

When a person dies without leaving a will or a beneficiary -- or even when a will is left -- it can be difficult to determine who will and who should receive the things the deceased has left behind. Often the largest and most complicated item to be awarded to a surviving acquaintance or loved one of the deceased is the home in which the deceased lived. Because there are legalities and requirements associated with awarding and owning a home, obtaining a deed of distribution can help streamline the process and make it more efficient.

The party mentioned in the deed of distribution becomes the homeowner of the deceased's home. This means that this party is now responsible for upkeep of the home, property taxes and payments if the deceased homeowner was still making mortgage payments. The individual who becomes the new homeowner is subject to foreclosure and penalties if he does not assume the necessary payments.

Prepared by Attorney

Courts recommend that a deed of distribution be prepared by an attorney to increase the likelihood that the deed is properly created and valid. Some courts recommend that a full title search be completed by the attorney before he completes the deed of distribution. Upon completing the title search, the attorney can determine if the party to whom the deed is to be awarded is, in fact, the party who should -- and who wants to -- receive the title.

Importance of Accuracy

If a deed of distribution is prepared without the preparer finding out all of the necessary information -- including doing a title search -- this could result in a title defect. If a title defect is found, the estate may need to be reopened if the property is to be sold or when property tax notices are sent. The homeowner should expect legal fees if this occurs. By performing a title exam at the outset, the homeowner can effectively eliminate needing to pay expensive legal fees at a later point.

Fees

Filing the deed of distribution with the court requires only a nominal charge, likely around $10 to $20. However, you should also be prepared to pay legal fees to the attorney who creates the deed of distribution. Likewise, if a title search is performed, there likely will be extra charges for this as well.

references & resources