Normally when a married couple purchases real property together (your parent's house), they are both on the deed as tenants by the entireties, which is a way of holding real property that is specific to married couples. However, if your mother doesn't have a copy of the recorded deed, the first thing you should do is go to your county or city Recorder of Deeds and see if she is on the deed. If not, there are some facts missing here. If she is not an owner of the house (as evidenced by the deed), she will need to probate your father's estate. That means she will have to go through a court proceeding to pay off his debts and transfer his assets, the main one of which is probably the house. She can't just put her name on the deed just because she was married to your father at the time of his death. Depending on Florida law, if your father died without a will, she will either get all or part of his estate, and you and any siblings may get part. She really needs to see a Florida lawyer to sort this out.
Typically these are pretty easy cases. We see this a lot, especially due to the number of foreclosure case we handle. It sounds like the husband died a while ago. We could do a summary proceeding and get this cleared up pretty easily. Not to scare you into hiring an attorney, but I have seen the books at Barnes and Noble on How to Probate Your Own Estate, and they definately not Miami specific. If you mother qualifies, she can have it done at Legal Services of Greater Miami or Miami-Dade Legal Aid for free. There is a waiting list for service of typically of about 6 months, but you did not indicate that it was an emergency.
As far as the word "estate", it is probate terminology for everything of value and all debts of the deceased. If have have more information, please submit it and I will try to update my response as well.
Thanks for your question. Since I am an attorney, I cannot ethically give you specific legal advice on your situation, since you are not my client, but I can only provide you with general information that you may find helpful. The best advice that I can recommend to you is to contact a local estate administration attorney that can work with you on your unique situation.
Generally, once a person has died, it is necessary to go through some form of estate administration to transfer title into the successor’s name. This is to protect the interests of creditors, and in Florida, to protect the constitutional homestead rights of the decedent’s potential beneficiary (spouse and children). There are many forms of estate administration in Florida, from formal to summary, and it is good idea (and in some cases required) to hire an attorney to help make sure all of the formalities and procedures are followed.
Best of luck to you and your mother,
Shawn C. Newman, Esq.
Attorney At Law
1881 NE 26th Street, Suite 212E
Wilton Manors, FL 33305