This is such a simple issue I am surprised it comes up as often as it does. I always run a check on the property tax records to see who has title or deed and move forward accordingly with a listing. I never take another step until this is done.
I have had three situations in a month where the seller's were not the sellers. One where the sister actually owned a home the brother was living in...and the brother decided to sell the home. The sister never lived in the home but anyway...he could not sell unless she signed the papers. She did but, he was going to until I asked him a few questions based on my research.
The second was a deceased lady's son...wanted to list a home...but the other brother was the executor not him! He thought he could quickly sell the home and give the other brother a negotiated settlement and make more money for himself. When I asked him for copies of the executor-ship...he became angry. I didn't know when I asked that it was not him! He had lead me to believe he could sell. I got the listing but it wasn't from him!
The third was an estranged wife that is not divorced yet and wanted to list and sell the home. I had the tax records and it showed a husband on the deed...where is he, I asked. She told me not to worry the lawyers had it all worked out. Fine, if they have it worked out they have a document for me to file with the listing to say you have the sole right to sell. She didn't and they didn't either.
This may become more common as the economic stresses that people have to endure get worse. Make sure you do your homework the listing you think you have may not be a listing at all!
Do you do your homework before you list a home for sale?