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How to Deal with Selling a Deceased Loved One's Home

When a relative or a parent passes away, it is always distressing for the family. Not only will they have to cope with the grief, but they will probably have to handle many practical things as well. One of those things may be selling a loved one's home after their death. If the deceased has a will, the will names the people they want to deal with their estate. The people named in the will are the executors responsible for collecting the assets, paying off any debts and taxes, and finally decluttering the inherited property if they decide to sell it. This article is here as a starting point to help you navigate through the process.

Handling your loved one's estate after they've passed away can be a complicated process. They may have left behind a lifetime's worth of memories and possessions. For that reason, it may be helpful to consider renting a storage unit. It will be a safe place for items you want to keep, and by moving items to a storage unit, it gives yourself some time to reminisce and heal. Then, once you are emotionally ready, you can start the process of donating, selling, or throwing away the items as needed.

Step 1: Check the estate's status in probate

If the deceased hasn't left a will, you will need to apply for probate to handle their assets. If there is a will, the executor needs to apply for a formal administration or summary administration. This is a process where the court proves the will's validity and legally allows the executor to manage the estate.

The usual scenario is that the executors sell the estate to pay off creditors, including any existing mortgage. So, if you are the official executor, you might also need to get the appropriate paperwork that will enable you to manage the property, access the deceased's bank accounts, and sell the property. However, bear in mind that you may need to pay taxes on the estate.

Step 2: Carry on with bill payments

If the property of the deceased still uses electricity, water, sewer, etc, there will be bills that need paying. It would be wise to keep the house insured and pay for any services your loved one used, like lawn mowing, pool cleaning, or a security system. If you no longer need these services, ensure everything is paid off and inform the service providers of this event. You will also need to notify any financial institutions, like mortgage lenders, to let them know about their passing. Then you will need to settle any debts, if there are any.

Step 3: Prepare the complete documentation

The most important thing to have when selling a loved one's home after death is documentation. Some of the essential documents you will need to find are:

  • will(s)

  • bills

  • financial documents and investments

  • insurance documents

Having a will helps in settling and selling the entire property more smoothly. Bills are essential so you know what services to stop and which ones need continued payments. Additionally, if your loved one had some financial investments, you must contact the providers to transfer the ownership. This counts for bank documentation too. Finally, you will have to contact the insurance providers and learn how to cancel the policy or transfer it to you to keep the property insured.

It also helps to go through all the documentation and decide what you keep for sentimental purposes. Experts recommend shredding the documents you don't plan on keeping. This way, you will make sure no one can steal the identity of your deceased parent or relative.

Step 4: Secure the house

If you are not living in the house you are preparing to sell, you will need to consider home security. The house sitting empty might be a target for vandals and criminals. Therefore, keeping the house insurance policy active will help protect this significant asset. The practical things regarding security are changing the locks, changing mail delivery, and installing a home security system.

Step 5: Insurance update

If the house of your late parents or relatives has insurance, it's important to continue paying it to keep it protected. However, you will need to inform the insurance company about their death and update them with the new information. You may have to let them know if you don't plan to live on your inherited property; while the payment might be higher if no one lives there (since there will be no one to notice a leak or some other problem), it will better protect you if something does happen.

Step 6: Declutter the house and remove personal items

A big part of preparing a house for sale is disposing of any personal items of the previous owners. Since this might be an emotionally tricky process, be sure to handle it step by step, room by room. Removing personal items from the house will make it look staged, which is a step closer to attracting potential buyers and finally selling it.

Step 7: Make the essential repairs

Besides packing, this step might be the most time-consuming. Therefore, make sure you plan the tasks accordingly. It often happens that the homes of the deceased require repairs. This is especially true if the previous owner was elderly or ill for some time and couldn't maintain the house properly. Therefore, even minor repairs, like deep cleaning the entire property and gutter cleaning, can make a big difference. If, however, the repairs are more serious, you can talk to your real estate agent about how the repairs will affect the home's value.

Step 8: Hire a Realtor and list the house for sale

Make sure you hire an excellent real estate agent to help you sell your loved one's home after death. The sale isn't much different from a traditional home sale, but some taxes and financial aspects might be different. There may also be extra paperwork required and other steps you have to take up front to make sure the process goes smoothly. Therefore, it would be good to hire a real estate agent who knows how to deal with inherited properties. Additionally, your agent will be able to pull together a comparative market analysis, giving you a reasonable estimate of the house's worth.

The takeaway from selling a loved one's home after death

Selling a loved one's home after death is, above all, emotionally complex. Therefore, make sure you give yourself some time to heal, invite friends for help and support through the decluttering and repairing process, and close on the house once your agent feels confident you got the best offer.

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