Inheriting a House 101

When you are named an heir in a will and inherit a house, there is so much to think about and consider. The first matter a person should consider is the emotional situation. When a death happens in the family, there can often be a challenging emotional climate and grieving to be done. It’s important that everyone involved takes their time in the grieving process.

As the family works through the emotional situation, it’s also incredibly important to consider both the short term and long term implications of inheriting a house. From the days following the inheritance to the long term results, there will be many decisions to make and much communication the heirs must have about what next steps look like.

In the days and weeks that follow inheriting a property, it is incredibly important to keep the house in good standing in the monetary sense. There will be time to decide what you’d like to do with the property, but keeping it maintained and paying the bills should be the first concern.

Here are the immediate matters to address after inheriting a house:

  1. The Payments

Mortgage:

Is the home owned free and clear or is there a mortgage that the former owner used to pay. If there is a mortgage on the property, it is incredibly important to make sure this get’s paid. A death can be incredibly emotional for the heirs; however, a bank sees matters by the numbers, and will be expecting payments. And the bank expects to be paid the mortgage, even if the owner passed away. Missing just a few payments can trigger the fines, penalties, and the foreclosure process, which is how the bank regains ownership of the property. The previous owner wanted to give the property to the heirs, and it would be a shame to lose it to the bank because of missed payments.

Also, be sure to check with the lender to ensure that the property taxes are being paid for. Many lenders will include them in monthly mortgage payments. However, it is very important to verify that property taxes are being paid. If they aren’t paid, the city or county may seize the house, and the property lost.

Insurance:

In the time after the death and before you’ve figured out what you’ll do with the property, it is incredibly important to maintain homeowners insurance on the property. This keeps the heirs safe in the event that something unfortunate happens to the house, such as a fire or vandalism. If the house is already insured, get in contact with the insurance agent or contact another company to discuss the matter. Also, discuss with the agent about buying a liability policy in addition to homeowners insurance.

Other payments:

Other than the mortgage and insurance, the other payments for a house typically include utilities and homeowners association payments. It is often easier for everyone involved if the utilities, such as gas and electricity, are left on. This is especially important if the house needs to have a furnace on in the colder months, has a sump pump in the basement, or an other immediate need to have power maintained.

Some properties are part of a homeowners association. These associations will make governing laws to the neighborhood and will often help with some type of exterior maintenance to the property. Make sure these payments are made to keep the house in good standing with the association, and to prevent liens from being placed on the property.

  1. Property Maintenance

Performing general property maintenance is also very important in order to avoid potential problems from the city or homeowners association. Make sure that the yard is maintained, grass is kempt, snow is removed from the driveway and walks, and that the house looks to be taken care of. This will help to keep the city at bay from issuing code violations or have a homeowners association reprimand the family for the property condition.

  1. Communication

Having open lines of communication with family members and heirs is incredibly important. There will be some challenging conversations ahead about. Make sure to fully and openly discuss immediate actions for the house, such as payments and upkeep. And be prepared to talk about long-term goals and outcomes for the house.

Once you’ve begun to navigate the short-term decisions about the inherited property, it’s time to start the conversation about what the next steps are and long-term goals for the house. The typical three options for long-term solutions are to move in to the house, rent the property out or to sell it. Some of these decisions may be governed by the decedent’s will; however, if not, it’s time to start exploring the next steps.

Look toward the other pages and articles for additional insights!

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