Missing Heirs and Conflicting Wills: What Homeowners Need to Know

When you are buying a home, even if a title company does a comprehensive search, it is still possible for a problem to arise in the future regarding ownership and who had the right to sell the property. Two of the most common ways issues arise are missing heirs and conflicting wills. Fortunately, if you have title insurance, you are protected even if these complications do occur in the future. Here is what you need to know.

Missing Heirs

After a property owner passes away, his or her real estate either passes on to heirs as directed in a will or, in the absence of a will, to the closest living relative in accordance with county and state law. Even if the family of the property owner follows the proper legal process for transferring ownership before the property is sold, a missing heir could appear in the future and threaten the right of the new property owner. For instance, if a daughter inherits her parents’ home and sells it, believing she has the right to do so and is the sole owner, a long-lost child of one of the parents could appear years in the future and claim part ownership of the property. If this missing heir is proven to be legitimate, he or she could pursue the new owners for financial compensation for his or her portion of the property. With title insurance, the new owners will receive money for their legal bills if they are forced to go to court, and their insurance will pay any compensation they are required to give the missing her.

Conflicting Wills

Conflicting wills can cause confusion over who is the rightful heir and owner of a piece of property. In the same way a missing heir can appear and disrupt the ownership share of a property, a conflicting will can surface and throw the transfer of ownership into chaos. If someone can prove that he or she had a stake in a property that was sold without his or her knowledge or permission, then he or she could pursue legal action. In this case, title insurance could again protect the new owners.

At Core, our exhaustive title searches preemptively shield homeowners from title confusion in many cases, but if a problem does arise, our title insurance plans are here to help. For help with title clearance call (856) 316-4005 for any of our NJ offices; (267) 428-3821 for our Philadelphia, PA office; (954) 434-1445 for our Ft. Lauderdale, FL office; (239) 970-4200 for our Naples, FL office; or (734) 823-3356 for our Northville, MI office.

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