Transferring titles after owner's death


Dear Mr. Azrael:

My sister and I inherited six ground rents from our mother, who had inherited some of them from her mother. We would like to change the name on the titles or deeds to our names so we can sell them. Or is it not necessary to do so? We think we have all the supporting documentation. Could you please tell us how to solve our problem?

Barbara Horwitz, Baltimore

Dear Ms. Horwitz:

Real estate -- including ground rents -- can be transferred only by the person or entity who owns legal title.

When a real estate owner in Maryland dies, legal title must be transferred to the heirs by deed from the decedent's legally appointed personal representative.

In your mother's case, an estate should have been opened in the office of the register of wills in the county of her residence. Her will, if she had one, should have been probated (officially filed with the register) and necessary inheritance taxes paid on the value of her estate.

After the estate proceeding was concluded, your mother's personal representative should have transferred the ground rents to you and your sister by a deed, recorded in the land records of the jurisdiction where the properties are located.

Since the ground rents seem to be titled in your mother's or grandmother's name, the proper estate procedures may not have been followed.

My suggestion is to have an attorney review your supporting documents, and if necessary, check the land records to determine the status of title to the ground rents.

The solution may be as simple as preparing and recording deeds conveying the ground rents from your mother's personal representative.

It may be more complex and expensive to straighten out if an estate for your mother was never opened, because an estate proceeding may be required.

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