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USA TODAY article: Who Inherits If the Surviving Spouse Is Not on the Home Deed?

In matters of estate planning and property ownership, it is crucial to understand the legal implications that can arise if a surviving spouse is not listed on the home deed. A recent article published by USA Today highlights the potential complexities and challenges faced by individuals in such situations. In this blog post, we will delve into the key points raised in the article and explore the possible outcomes when it comes to inheritance.

Link to the article: USA Today Article

Understanding the Scenario

The article outlines a scenario where a married couple jointly owns a home, but only one spouse is listed on the deed. In this case, if the spouse whose name is on the deed passes away, questions arise regarding the inheritance rights of the surviving spouse.

Legal Ramifications

The legal implications in such scenarios can vary depending on several factors, including state laws and the presence of a will. Generally, when a person dies intestate (without a will), state laws determine the distribution of assets. In some states, this means that the surviving spouse may be entitled to a portion or even the entirety of the home. However, if there is a will that designates a different heir or if the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage, the situation becomes more complex.

Probate Process

The probate process plays a significant role in determining property inheritance. Probate is the legal process of settling an individual’s estate after their death. It involves validating the will, paying debts, and distributing assets. If the surviving spouse is not on the home deed, they may need to navigate the probate process to establish their claim to the property.

Estate Planning Considerations

To avoid potential complications and ensure the smooth transfer of assets, it is crucial to engage in comprehensive estate planning. This includes drafting a will, establishing trusts, and updating property deeds. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help individuals understand the legal requirements and develop strategies to protect their interests.


The USA Today article sheds light on the complexities that can arise when a surviving spouse is not listed on the home deed. In these situations, state laws, the presence of a will, and the probate process determine the inheritance rights of the surviving spouse. Estate planning plays a vital role in clarifying intentions and avoiding potential conflicts. It is essential for individuals to seek professional guidance and take proactive steps to secure their assets and ensure the smooth transfer of property to their intended beneficiaries.

To read the full article, please visit USA Today.

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