There may come a time in life where you and fellow family members may be responsible for selling a family home. Perhaps you have elderly parents moving to a retirement community or assisted-living facility. You may have inherited property. Or, the family situation may not be so cut and dry. Ultimately, you need to sell the home and there could be some complex legal issues to navigate.
Let’s walk through a few of these scenarios and questions that need answering.
Inheriting a Home and Selling That Home
Situations like this happen every day. People inherit homes from deceased family members, but they have no intention of keeping the property. They don’t want to deal with paying for property taxes, general upkeep and remaining mortgage payments (if applicable). Sometimes, the asset needs to be sold and split up amongst multiple heirs.
Selling a Home When the Owner is Deceased
Our advice for many, if not all of these situations, is to begin by contacting an estate attorney to understand the state of the estate. Was there a will? Whom is the executor(s)? How do we get the property of the estate into a legal standing so that it can be sold and transferred? There is a process that must be followed. Just because you may be the sole heir may not mean you have immediate control of the property. If there was not a will, a process must take place to appoint an administrator. Then the disposition of property can take place once proper documents are obtained. Ask about documents like “short certificates,” Letters Testamentary, or other documents used to grant authority of a part over an estate.
In addition, you will need professional advice concerning any taxes or other obligations that may be filed and/or paid as part of estate. Different states have different rules and your relationship to the decedent may affect the amount of tax that is due.
Have this in place and understood before selling any property!
If you are the sole heir of the property and you have been granted authority to deal with the property, then selling it shouldn’t pose many challenges. You have the right to do with it what you want. Selling it might be your best option. In that case, you can work with a Realtor® to get the house ready for the market and sold properly.
If you have shared ownership of the property or the will has some gray areas (maybe there’s not a will at all), the process could be a bit more complicated. You may want to consult with a probate lawyer or someone who can help guide you through the process. Once you (and your fellow heirs, if that’s the case) have the right to sell the property, then you can proceed with the appropriate home selling steps.
Selling a Home While the Original Owner is Still Alive
Again, this can be a complicated or simpler scenario depending on the legal details of your situation. If you or someone else in your family is granted full power of attorney (POA) for another person (elderly parents, for example), then you will have control over the property and any important financial decisions. There could be some legal details and stipulations attached to such an appointment, so it is always advised to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in family and/or probate law.
In the situation above, and those we’ll mention below, there is heightened awareness from the health and legal communities in these situations because of the potential for deceptive practices and elder abuse. Do not be surprised or offended if during this process you are asked some challenging questions about your motives and intent. They are being asked to protect the aging consumer from ill intent. In fact, such due diligence helps protect all parties from potential challenges in the future from some aggrieved party.
If the owners are still alive and of right mind, then they will ultimately have control over their property. Your parents may ask for your help in selling their home. You may do a lot of the work, deal with the real estate agent and oversee the most important details. However, their names are still on the title deed and certain aspects of the transaction will likely require their involvement. Every situation like this will have its own complexities, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult if your parents or relatives who own the home are ready and willing to sell. You are simply helping facilitate the transaction.
When to Intervene with Elderly Parents
A more complex situation could arise where your parent(s) may have physical or mental health issues that you are worried about. You and other family members may need to intervene at some point, but they may not be so ready to consent with a POA or any control over their property. We can’t fully advise you on what to do here because every family situation is unique. The first recommendation is probably to talk with your parents first and get them on board with any major legal or home selling decisions. Otherwise, you’ll want to talk with a lawyer and see what your options are for taking control of any legal or financial assets.
Family real estate issues can be difficult—emotionally, financially and legally. Some situations are more complicated than others. It’s important to do your research, work with knowledgeable legal specialists and consult with real estate agents who have experience in these real estate situations. With the right guidance and planning, you can ultimately make the right decisions for you and your family.
For all your real estate needs in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware—including selling a family home or inherited property—contact The Cyr Team today for an introductory home selling consultation.