Benchmark Title Company, LLC


The Title Tip of the Week this week discusses the issues involved in determining who may sign the deed and transfer title when the seller, or one of the sellers is deceased.

When the Seller is Deceased
by Sarah Holdener, Esq.
When handling a transaction where the seller or one of the sellers is deceased, it is important to contact the title company early in the listing process so that any issues that could delay closing can be addressed with ample time to resolve them.  It is critical to determine current ownership in this situation.  A good place to start is by obtaining a copy of the deed to the property.  In order to accurately determine ownership and who has the authority to sign at closing the title company may request additional information and additional time to obtain all necessary signatures.

It should not be assumed that the spouse or child of the deceased person will automatically take title to the property.  A number of factors affect this including how the deceased person took title to the property, whether the deceased person left a will, whether the will is probated, and and who the heirs of the deceased are.

First, a copy of the death certificate will usually be required by the title company.  This can be found in the Vital Records office in the county where the deceased party died. 

Next, the deed which transferred title into the deceased will be reviewed.  If the property was held as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTROS) or as Tenants by the Entireties, the property will automatically pass to the surviving tenant.  The title company may require that the surviving tenant sign an affidavit of joint tenancy which will go on record prior to the deed to the purchaser.   

If property was owned by the deceased individually or if held with others as Tenants in Common, the property or a portion of it will pass to the heirs or devisees of the deceased.  In this situation, the title company will need to see a copy of the will, if there is one, and will need to ascertain the names and relationship of all heirs at law of the deceased.

Probate of the deceased person's estate may be required, and in some cases a court order may be necessary to transfer the property.  Examples of when probate may be requied include if the deceased left no will and his or her heirs include minor children, or if one of the heirs at law objects to the property transfer.

Depending on ownership and whether the estate has been probated, all heirs and the surviving spouse of the deceased may be required to sign the deed to transfer any potential interest in the property.  If you suspect this may be necessary, please give the title company ample time to deal with any out of town heirs.

The proceeds of the sale may need to be held in an escrow account by the title company until any potential claims period has expired.


Any questions can be directed to Benchmark Title at 618-239-3750. Please feel free to call or email:

John Howe

Doreen Miller, Esq.
Commercial Division Manager

Sarah Holdener, Esq.
General Counsel,
VP Production

Michelle Null
VP Escrow Operations

Serving you from three convenient locations:

Main Office:
1124 Hartman Lane
Shiloh, IL 62221
Ph: 618-239-3750
Escrow Fax: 618-239-3707
Title Fax: 618-239-3757
Fax Orders: 618-310-1589
President: John Howe

318 North Main St.
Columbia, IL 62236
Ph: 618-281-9700
Fax: 618-281-9705
Manager: Randi Schur

4215 S. State Rte 159
Glen Carbon, IL 62034
Ph: 618-288-1695
Fax: 618-288-1852
Manager: Sara Sowell


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   Employee Spotlight

 Michelle Null

 Michelle Null, Vice President of Escrow Operations, began her career in title insurance 25 years ago as a billing clerk.  Michelle moved her way through the escrow departments of a variety of title companies in the St. Louis area as a Processor, Closer and Branch Manager before joining Benchmark Title as VP and Escrow Manager in February 2002.  In this capacity she is responsible for three closing offices and the construction disbursing division.  Michelle lives in Fenton, MO with her two sons, John, almost 16, and Michael, 8.  Michelle can be reached at 618-239-3750 or by email at  Call her with a new title order between now and next Friday, April 27th, and wish Michelle a Happy Birthday to get 15% off the title premium.  Happy Birthday Michelle!







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