Updated: Feb 27
Tangled title. It sounds like the name of a board game. In reality, it's not quite as fun. This blog post covers the tangled title phenomena and how to keep things knot-free.
What is a tangled title?
Though not a term commonly used in Washington State, 'tangled title' is used to describe a very common scenario. A tangled title occurs when a decedent's name remains on the deed of a property and others continue to live on the property.
In some cases, these individuals can be family of the decedent. As long as the decedent's name is still on the deed, individuals living on the property are unable to sell the property, access property equity, refinance the mortgage (if decedent's name is also on mortgage), lease the property, or tap into the many other benefits that come with property ownership.
How do I fix a tangled title?
To fix a tangled title, the decedent's estate will likely need to go through probate. If the decedent had an estate plan, the plan will specify who is supposed to inherit the property. This could require an executor to authorize and carry out the transfer. Once the transfer is complete, the title of the property is no longer tangled.
If the decedent did not have an estate plan, Washington State intestacy laws will determine who inherits the property in question. RCW 11.04.015. This could be someone other than who is actually living on the property. In these cases, a legal action will likely need to be initiated to resolve the matter. This type of action falls under Washington's Trust and Estates Dispute Resolution Act. RCW 11.96A.
How to prevent a tangled title?
Setting up an estate plan and informing beneficiaries on how to access estate planning documents are great first steps. This will make the process of updating the property deed relatively straightforward. When a person dies, administering the estate in a timely manner ensures that the transfer process gets started.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By accessing this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Sekhon Law, PLLC. This post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.