Homes During Probate: What Can and Cannot Be Done

After the death of a parent, you may wonder what should be done with the home and its contents. The answer depends on what you intend to do with it. Read on to learn more about what you are allowed to do during probate with your family home and what you should not do.

Don't Disturb Anything — Yet

It's very tempting for loved ones to attempt to obtain treasured family mementos from a home after a death. However, the home and its contents should be left as it is for the time being. There is an exception to this rule, though: some people use a special deed to record the names of others who own the home along with the deceased. In that case, the remaining named people on the deed are now owners of the home and the home does not have to be probated. It's up to the owners to do what they want with the home and its contents.

The Executor Is Appointed and Takes Actions

A few weeks after the will is filed, the court will appoint an executor or personal representative for the estate. If no will exists, the estate is filed with the probate court and an administrator of the estate will be appointed. The executor is responsible for dealing with all estate property, including the home. Since the home is part of the estate, it must be kept safe, secure, and intact, in case creditors of the deceased need to be paid.

If the deceased has considerable debts and the liquid assets are not enough to pay off the debts, the home can be made ready and sold by the executor. The executor is also tasked with taking an inventory of the home and having it appraised. If the home must be sold, the executor can clean the home of its contents by distributing the contents to loved ones or by having an estate sale.

While Probate Continues

If the home is not to be sold, the executor has duties pertaining to keeping the home safe for the time being. That means having locks changed, if necessary, paying storage fees, hiring workers to make needed repairs, maintaining the yard, and paying bills associated with the home such as power, water, property taxes, and more.

If the home is to go to someone named in the will, the deeds are made ready in the probate lawyer's office and are filed with the revenue or probate court. If there is no will, the state will use its laws of succession to determine who will inherit the home. Once the deed is in the names of the beneficiaries and probate is over, they are free to divide or sell the home as they wish. Speak to a probate lawyer to find out more.