- Whether you can sell your home without your spouse’s signature depends on whether they have a legal claim to property ownership.
- If your spouse’s name is on the deed to your house, you will need their signature. If it is not on the deed, you may or may not need it, depending on your state’s specific laws.
- Your spouse can grant you power of attorney to complete the sale without their signature.
Can I Sell My House Without My Spouse’s Signature?
Selling a house is a complex and time-consuming process that often takes months to complete.
When it’s finally time for the buyer to close on the house, you’ll need to sign over the deed to the new buyer. You’ll also need to sign other closing documents forfeiting your rights to the property in exchange for payment.
It’s normal to wonder if your spouse really needs to be there. Perhaps they’re traveling, or maybe they’d like to be left out of the stressful selling process.
Whether you need your spouse’s signature to sell a house depends on where you own your home and whose name is on the deed.
In this short guide, we’ll explain when you will and won’t need your spouse’s signature to sell a house.
Selling a House Depends on the Deed
Every home has a deed—a legal document that states who has ownership rights. What is a deed?
- A deed is a physical piece of paper. The original copy of your deed is now in your county’s courthouse or assessor’s office. You should also have a copy for your records.
- Although the words deed and title are sometimes used interchangeably, a title is not a legal document. It is the concept that you have a legal claim to ownership.
- If your name is on the deed to a home, if you have title rights. However, someone (like your spouse) may have title rights even if their name is not on the deed.
A home’s title rights plays a significant role in its sale. When you purchased your home, your bank did a “title search” to make sure the former real property owner had the right to transfer the property to you and that no else could lay claim to the property. Then, you signed documents that transferred the deed and title to you.
Going back to the original question—can I sell my house without my spouse’s signature—this depends in part on whose name is on the deed.
- If both your names are on the deed, you’ll both need to sign to transfer the title to a seller (unless they grant you Power of Attorney, which we’ll cover later in this article).
- If you purchased your home before your marriage and your spouse’s name is not on the deed, you may be able to sell the home without your spouse’s signature.
- If you purchased your home after your marriage and your spouse’s name is not on the deed, the situation becomes complicated. Whether you can sell the home all depends on your state’s community property laws.
Community Property Laws, Explained
As we noted, someone may have home rights even if their name isn’t on the deed. This is definitely the case in states with community property laws.
In so-called “Community Property States,” all property owned by one spouse is automatically half-owned by the other. If you purchased your home during your marriage, 50% will legally belong to your spouse in the following eight states:
That’s because the house is considered “community property” and is shared between the two of you.
However, even if your state doesn’t have community property laws on the books, your spouse may still have a right to a house you own. For example, if your spouse uses the home as their principal residence (with or without you), they may have “homestead rights.” In this case, the law protects spouses and minor children from becoming homeless.
As you can see, whether or not your spouse’s name is on the deed, you’ll often need their signature to sell real property. A few exceptions apply:
- If you inherited the property while married, your spouse may not automatically have a claim.
- If you purchased the property through a trust or another legal entity to which your spouse has no legal home rights, you may not need their signature.
Your Spouse Can Grant You Power of Attorney
But what if your spouse is simply away on business or military duty? Do they have to fly back to town just to complete the real estate transaction?
If your spouse is otherwise occupied, you may be able to close without their signature.
They would have to grant you Power of Attorney (POA) to sign on their behalf.
This is tricky. In short, you’d need your spouse’s signature on another legal document to prove you have the appropriate POA to complete the real estate transaction without them.
If your spouse is incarcerated, away on military duty, or undergoing medical treatment, consult with your lawyers as soon as possible to get the proper POA documents in place so that you’re ready when the time comes to sell your house.
Your current spouse may have legal rights to a property you purchased if any of the following apply:
- Your state has community property laws
- They use the house as a primary residence
- They help make mortgage payments
Therefore, any divorce settlement should permanently clarify who retains rights to the property. Otherwise, your ex-spouse could stand in the way of your sale.
If you used an online, DIY divorce service, consult with an attorney to find out whether you’ll need your ex-spouse’s signature to sell your property.
Sell Your Home, Free and Clear
Do you need your spouse’s signature to sell your house? While the specifics of this question depend on your state of residence, the answer is usually the same—you probably want their permission. Otherwise, it may affect your marriage and the ultimate result of the sale.
Consult with a lawyer to better understand whether you have sole ownership of your property. You’ll also need legal advice if you require POA of your spouse’s affairs to complete the transaction.
If your title isn’t free and clear, it can scare off potential buyers at the last minute. Once you’ve settled the matter, you’ll be on the road to closing without a hitch!