Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question: "How to Sell Mobile Home After Husband Died Without a Will?"
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Hello, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton and welcome back to our Question and Answer series. Today's question has to do with probate in a mobile home and the viewer writes the following:
"My husband passed away 18 months ago without a will. We were married almost 21 years. We bought a mobile home, only his name was on the title. I'm trying to sell the house now but was told by the realtor to contact a probate lawyer to see if I have the right to sell. The mortgage company has me signed a form stating I would be taking over the mortgage."
First of all, I'm sorry to hear about the passing of your husband. If his name alone was on the title to the mobile home, if you were never on there, if you weren't joint owners, then you may need to pursue a probate court action to get the mobile home titled solely in your name before you can sell or transfer title or rather what you would need to do is open an estate and get yourself, if you were appointed as personal representative and you want to sell the mobile home, you could sell the home on behalf of the estate and then you could distribute the proceeds to yourself as the sole heir, assuming you are the sole heir. You didn't mention if there's any children here or not.
If the total probate assets held in your husband's name are less than $50,000, that's the limit in Wisconsin for small estate, then there's a simplified method called transfer by affidavit that can be used but if the total probate assets subject to probate are more than $50,000, then you will need to open a probate court action to proceed.
For mobile homes, I've dealt with this a few times and you need to go to the department of safety and professional services website - dsps.wi.gov. You go to their website and search, there's a section specifically on mobile homes and it will lay out this process I've outlined here. Basically if the mobile home and all probate assets are under $50,000, you can use the transfer by affidavit method but let's say the mobile home is worth $45,000 and there's a checking account with $30,000, solely in his name, then you'd be at $75,000, you'd be over that limit, you couldn't use the transfer by affidavit method. You would need to use the full probate court method to transfer title.
For other viewers, if you're watching this, mobile homes and you own a mobile home, they kind of fall into this gray area between real estate where you have a deed and a home because generally a home is attached to the ground and you can't move it but a mobile home you can move. So there's a title with the department of safety and professional services that you can obtain but I've seen many people who never obtained the title. They just got the certificate of sale and now and for some really older mobile homes, they didn't perhaps do the title in the original but now you can apply for a title with DSPS - department of safety and professional services and if you're watching this and you have a mobile home and you think, "oh I live in it with my spouse but only one of us is on the title", I would recommend you look at doing the paperwork now to title it jointly because there's a way you can make it and or, joint owners and that would avoid probate upon the death of the first person.
If you're planning to stay living in the mobile home, that's a method I would recommend if you're married couple, spouses make sure you're both on the title to the property and then of course, have an estate plan set up in the instance something happens to both of you but I'm sympathetic to your situation because it's your home and trying to deal with this after, is difficult because your husband is already gone.
Hopefully, under that $50,000 limit and maybe you can use the simplified transfer by affidavit method but if you're not under that limit, then you're going to have to go full probate court and I would recommend consulting with an attorney on your next steps there.
So excellent question, thank you for asking, thank you for tuning in and we'll see you next time.
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