Will I Automatically Inherit My Spouse’s House?

Some clients have asked me the following question:

“When I married my husband, I moved into a house that he owned outright before we got married. In the event he dies before me, am I entitled to the home?”

The answer is “It depends.”

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)

If you and your husband transferred the house from his name only to both of your names as JTWROS (joint tenants with right of survivorship) and you outlive your husband, you will automatically own the entire house upon his death. To reflect this in the title records, you will need to file an Affidavit of Surviving Joint Tenant along with a certified copy of his death certificate.

If the house hasn't been transferred JTWORS, you still have a probate homestead interest in it. This interest equates to a life estate in the homestead in the surviving spouse—provided you keep up the payments, and so forth.

Sharing the Inheritance with Your Spouse’s Children

If your spouse did not have a Will but did have children by another marriage, you would inherit an undivided equal part of the property of the house with each of the living children of your husband. This could be a relatively small interest if your husband had a number of children.

The exact amounts are contained in Title 84 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 213 concerning intestate succession. Under Oklahoma law, a person is under no legal obligation to leave anything to his children by Will. So, if your husband has a Will, he can state therein exactly how much of his property will be inherited by you and by anybody else without having to turn to a statute which does not necessarily reflect the wishes of the decedent. He can leave everything to you to the exclusion of his children, if he so wishes.

Grayson P. Van Horn is an attorney at law serving Oklahoma residents and property owners. 

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