The challenges of inheriting a house

Castles in the Sand

No one wants to see a loved one pass away, but it’s inevitable that we all will have that experience and along with the grief comes the distribution of personal items and property. As emotional as sifting through your family’s papers and clothing is, the real challenge at this time of your life will be selling their property.

The important thing to be clarified before death is if there is a will or trust in place. Dying without a will causes the estate to default to the statutes of the state to determine who the legal heirs are. Needless to say, that will be a time-consuming and possibly costly process involving probate. Even a will needs to go through a probate process, however, living trusts will avoid probate. These are all legal issues which will need a legal opinion.

If there is a home to be sold and there is a legal will or trust, that responsibility will fall to the executor of the estate. The executor has the power to make all decisions but should certainly confer with all other beneficiaries to the sale of the house.

As in all property sales, decisions need to be made starting with a reasonable selling price. More than one estimate of value should be obtained from real estate professionals and a licensed appraiser should also be considered, especially if there are multiple heirs, to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Whoever is handling the sale of the property should be prepared to spend some money before the home is sold. Property taxes, utility bills, lawn maintenance and unforeseen repairs all have to be considered prior to sale.

In addition, the property needs to be cleaned out of personal items and, based on the recommendation of a real estate professional, the furniture removed. There are companies that take care of this and any furniture not sold at an estate sale is removed by the estate person for a fee. However, the family will still need to decide which items will go into the sale, which will be passed along to other family members and which will get destroyed – not an easy process.

Then, of course, as in any property sale, decide whether renovations and/or cosmetic fixes should be made. Most professionals will tell you that this is not the time for major renovations. If necessary, cosmetic fixes would be a better choice. Cleaning, painting, yard and garage clean up is probably the most practical and least expensive way to go. Here again, the advice of a competent and experienced real estate professional is essential to understanding the local market.

Heirs who are in a tight financial position and need to sell quickly could consider one of the quick-sale companies as long as they are willing to take a discounted price. The heir’s tax consequences should also be considered before any money is spent and sale offers are considered, especially if the property has been in the deceased’s name for a long time.

Here in Florida it’s very common for parents to pass away and leave property in their estate to be sold by their heirs. This is a little more of a problem if the beneficiaries are out of state, but again because it’s common in Florida, there are several companies to assist heirs in the disposal of personal property and furniture.

Selling a family home is always emotional and more so on the heels of a loved one’s death. Ask for help during this time; it’s out there.

More Castles in the Sand:

Uncovering a home’s defects

How to determine the truth about home flooding

It’s all about the kitchen