How to buy land owned by a deceased owner?

When property is owned by deceased family member, and not properly transferred to living family member who would like to sell, as a land investor what is your plan of action? Pass on investment?

@gcohen are you planning on self closing or going through a title company?

Depends on the state.
In some states, you can resolve this by having an affidavit of heirship done as well as obtaining a copy of the death certificate.
A title company will do it for you for around $200.

@dvucak I will probably use a title/escrow company rather than self close on these parcels that have a deceased owner. Typically is the seller (living family member) responsible for paying fees to remove this type of cloud on title?

@gcohen If you’re closing with a title company, it’s certainly NOT a deal-breaker.

I just closed on a property today with this exact same issue. The individual I was purchasing it from thought they owned it because they had a quit claim deed in their name from 2014. The property belong to a deceased family member and was then inherited by the spouse, who signed the quit claim deed to my seller.

However, the legal description of the property was not included in the deed. Naturally, this came up when doing the title search but thankfully my title company handled everything - I didn’t have to do a thing.

Similar to what @Levi-Shemtov mentioned, they needed to get a completed lack of probate affidavit, copy of the decedent’s last will, and a recorded death certificate with the county. They also got in touch with the seller to have them sign another deed to legally transfer ownership.

I just waited until closing, signed on the dotted line, and handed over the cash. I did have to pay around 300 hundred bucks for all that but it was well worth it, no question about it!

I can say without question that this deal would not have gone through if I tried doing all that myself.


@levi-shemtov But if there are other heirs, don’t those other heirs have just as much right to property and may not want to sell, but may want to keep as family land. All the Affidavit does is identify all heirs. What happens after the Affidavit?

I agree with other posters here - definitely close it with a title company, one that is patient and ahs a “curative department” (i.e. staff or associated law firm that willingly deals with issue of estates, land given to decedents, etc.) There can be some real good deals had by buying such properties at cheap prices. But anticipate more. More drama, more time to close, more money to close. Factor in the possibility of transaction cost to being $1 to $2,000 higher depending on the legal work required to clean up any messes. If you one find where the will / probate / estate has been handled well and everything recorded - then not much drama or extra cost involved.

I have frequently bought land from dead people - and almost as often attempted to but found it not practical given seeming unresolvable issues. I Have self closed only a couple such purchases myself a few years ago - done the search for documents myself, done the affidavits of heirship myself. And then them self closed them on the sell side. I decided the time required and risk of missing something and my subsequent buyer having an issue later (that I would have to deal with) when they tried to sell or get a loan to build, etc. was too great - so, I have shifted only doing higher value properties if dead sellers are involved and to closing them all with title companies.


@comj I don’t know for sure but I believe the surviving spouse is the default heir and has the right to sell it to you. The affidavit just clears that up.
This is probably a case specific issue and I highly recommend just talking to a title company about it. It’ll take you five minutes and they won’t charge you anything unless they go ahead and do it.

@gcohen I believe you can do Affidavit of Heirship. You need to check with your county whether or not it has to go through the court and what fees are involved.

I’m UC on a nice property where the seller and her deceased husband are on the deed. He died in Alaska where the death cert can only be obtained by a family member. She doesn’t have a regular marriage cert, and therefor has no way to obtain the death cert. I am working with a title company and we are kind of at a dead end as we need the death cert in order to close the deal. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to proceed?