Real Estate Services with William S. Cherry & No Co., Wealth Coach

Years ago, and we're talking about YEARS AGO, when a husband and wife bought a home in Texas, the law required that the woman sign the papers in a room that was private and away from her husband's earshot or obvious ongoing influence.

The title attorney was required to ask her at least three questions before she signed:  Do you know that when you sign these papers, you are buying this house in a 50-50 partnership with your husband?  Do you know that you and your husband will owe money and will have to pay it back in monthly installments of X apiece until 19xx?  If the wife said, "no," to any or all, that ended the whole thing. No sale, no purchase.

So to get around that foolishness, often times the husband bought the new family home in his name only, and it was left to the Texas homestead laws to take care of the wife.  The homestead laws said that it didn't matter if the wife's name was left off of the deed; she owned half anyway.  And it further said that he would not be able to sell the home in the future without her joint permission.

Well, that business of having the wife sign separately has not been required for at least fifty years, but for some reason, buying the family home only in the name of the husband has continued.  And apparently Texas isn't the only place where it has. 

We frequently get questions about its implications on the Active Rain Question and Answer site.

It is my opinion that Realtors should encourage that both parties be named on the deed and further, that it would be a good idea for those family homes that were closed in only one name to be reworked to name the wife as an equal owner.  The title company or any attorney can do this by filing a correction deed in the public records.  The cost is minimal.

Is it necessary?  Probably not, but it will certainly go a long way in further shoring up the marriage.

Bill Cherry on the web


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Comments 17 New Comment

Cheri Smith
Realtor Prudential Gary Greene
Prudential Gary Greene, Cypress TX
Because of the community property laws in Texas it isn't as important as it is in some other states. However, it always makes life easier by dotting all your Is and crossing all your Ts. So why not do it when you will be signing anyway. You can always go back and do it later. It can save some legal hassle down the line. Especially in my case where I KNOW my husband's ex-wife would fight me for "his" half of the house  if he ever died. If that ever happened, I'd take a chainsaw to the house and cut his half down the middle and tell her to come and get it! lol.
April 16, 2008 12:52 PM
Anonymous #14
Bill Cherry

Miss Cheri' -

There stands today in Galveston on about 54th and Avenue L a home that was sawed in 2.  The wife kept the half that remains on the lot, and the husband had his half moved about a mile away to another lot.

A reminder.  In Texas (and probably many other states as well), if an ex-wife or ex-husband or anyone else for that matter is the named beneficiary on life insurance policies, pension trusts, etc., and the owner dies, the owner's will or trust does not override those designations.

In other words, if the ex-wife is still the beneficiary named on the life insurance policy, she's going to get the bucks when he dies, not the new wife.

April 16, 2008 10:32 PM
Anonymous #15

I would like to know what happens in a situation like this one.  Both parties have previously been married and presently married for a couple of years. Both parties are retired.  First party wants to put his sons name on the deed to the house and the property because it was always to be the kids inheritance...the wife is left with nothing if anything should happen to the husband other than being able to stay in the house that would not be hers but his sons.  the wife can stay in the house as long as she wants but it isn't hers if she leaves she leaves with nothing because the husband has left her nothing. what legal rights does the wife have???

October 27, 2010 12:08 PM
William S. Cherry & No Co., Wealth Coach
William S. Cherry & No Co., Wealth Coach

Williams -

There are two issues here.  First, you didn't say in what state you live.  Second, I'm not an attorney.  So you need to consult with one who specializes in family law in your state.

Here are some generalizations to consider.  First, whose name(s) are on the house's deed now?  The husband's name individually, the husband's name and someone else?

Second, if after the the husband dies he wants the wife to be able to stay in the house as long as she is alive, the house has to be so deeded NOW to give her a life estate interest.  If he dies without the wife having a life estate, then the beneficiaries of his estate (or the joint owners of the house) do not have to allow the wife to continue to live there.

Both parties need to see an attorney and get properly documented how they each want things to go after they are deceased. 

As to what rights the wife has -- now or at the death of the husband -- your state laws will address that, and again, you need to get that information and direction from an attorney licensed in your state.  Good luck.

October 27, 2010 02:43 PM
Yvette Chisholm
Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

I think legal advice as such as this should be handled by an attorney who is licensed to practice in the state the home is in.  I understand the message you are trying to give and it is important, but that is beyond the scope of my license in MD, DC, and VA.  

November 20, 2011 09:02 PM


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