How to Navigate Probate and Sell A Deceased Loved One’s Home
When a loved one dies, initially, a numbness may come over us. We may have trouble sleeping, keeping our focus, and doing the simple things each day requires. Friends and family surround us; flowers, cards, and food arrive from neighbors and caring coworkers. We find ourselves thinking back on the memories we hold dear, while being faced with the reality of the finality of life.
Here are important things to do when a loved one passes:
1. First, be sure to contact an attorney to find out what is legal in the state in which your loved one lived, and for your particular situation.
2. Contact your state’s Vital Statistics office
- Ask for several copies of the death certificate–you will need them because many institutions you need to contact want an original.
3. Probate the estate
Probate–or estate administration—is the process in which your loved one’s estate is passed to the recipients named in their will.
- It’s wise to consult an estate attorney to help you through the probate process.
- If your loved one had a will, it likely named an executor to carry out their final wishes.
- If your loved one didn’t have a will, state law gives a list of who can serve in this capacity.
- Go to City Hall and obtain a letter testamentary to prove that you have a right to handle your loved one’s financial affairs during probate. Get more than one of these; you will need them.
4. Inform financial institutions
- With the death certificates and letter of testamentary in hand, contact the insurance companies with which your loved one had policies.
- Alert all investment companies of your loved one’s death.
- Inform banks where your loved one had savings accounts. Don’t be caught off guard—accounts may freeze when financial institutions are notified of the death.
- Contact pension providers to identify if they include survivor payments.
- Contact the mortgage company.
- Contact credit card companies.
- Obtain a copy of your loved one’s credit report.
- Report the death to the credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
- Any financial obligations will be paid by the estate’s assets.
5. Inform all service providers
- Cancel the internet provider.
- Stop cable television subscription.
- Discontinue home phone.
- Cancel any other monthly obligations such as memberships and magazines.
- Continue utilizing lawn care service to keep the home ready to sell.
- Continue the home security system to aid in securing the property.
- Electricity, trash pick-up, water, and gas may be left on until the home is sold.
6. Notify any necessary governmental organizations
- Surviving children may qualify to receive a death benefit from the Social Security Administration.
- Contact the Veterans Administration to determine if you qualify for survivor benefits, which may be available for the spouse or the children.
7. Gather all essential documents related to the home
- Assemble all financial documents essential for the distribution of the estate, including the home. Put each document you need into one place to simplify the process. It’s worth the effort it takes to find and assemble them. Include the following:
- Your loved one’s will
- Receipts from your loved one’s bills
- Investment documents including stocks, bonds, IRAs, and 401(k)s
- Life insurance policies
- Homeowners insurance
- Bank accounts
8. Take preventative measures to avoid identity theft
- Freeze your relative’s credit,
- Contact all creditors.
- Take pictures of other documents you find containing your loved one’s social security number.
- Unfortunately, some people try to wrongfully utilize the social security numbers of the deceased—so shredding unnecessary documents that have personal information on them will help prevent identity theft.
9. Prepare the home to be listed and sold
- Take old window coverings down and update them.
- Remove all traces of pets, including stains, smells, and damage.
- Freshen up the yard by trimming all bushes, plants, and shrubs.
- Keep the lawn mowed and crisp looking.
- Plant fresh flowers in a decorative pot and place it on the porch.
- Hang a welcoming wreath on the front door.
- Sometimes, rather than making additional updates, sellers simply lower the price in order to sell the house quickly.
10. Secure the premises so it is not a target to thieves
- Change the locks on the doors.
- To keep a pile of packages and mail from catching the eye of thieves, forward the mail to your home or office. The post office will forward Priority, Express and first-class mail for 12 months and publications for 2 months.
11. Assemble assets, pay bills, and file tax returns
- Find out everything your loved one owed and pay it.
- Bills must be paid throughout the probate process.
- Medical bills and taxes are final bills and will be paid when probate has concluded.
- Contact an attorney or accountant regarding tax laws to help with filing your loved one’s tax return. Most estates don’t need to file federal estate tax returns, but if one is necessary, it must be filed and paid within nine months of the date of death. If the estate is taxable, and the deadline is missed, severe penalties and interest may apply.
12. Distribute property
Once you have paid debts and taxes, the assets are distributed and a reserve is set aside for the cost of closing out the estate.
If you would like to learn more about the probate process and how an agent can help you successfully and peacefully navigate this process, schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable, caring McGraw REALTOR® by simply calling 918-592-6000