If you’ve been appointed the executor of an estate, one of your jobs is to sell the home of the deceased. To do this, you must first file the will in probate court, and each state has its own rules regarding the deadline to file. Learn more about the probate process when selling an inherited home.
When a loved one dies and has appointed you as the executor, one of your priorities is to sell the inherited property and dividing the earnings between beneficiaries.
As if selling a home weren’t complicated enough, executors face even more legal challenges than a homeowner that makes for a difficult (and often expensive) process. While you might not be ready to sell the home too quickly, you’re also not free to take as long as you want, either.
Real estate is one of the most difficult assets of an estate to manage, and knowing what to expect before you’re in this situation can help you reach an optimal outcome.
Here’s what to know about your role in selling an inherited home:
How Long Do You Have to Sell an Inherited Home?
When a loved one passes away, selling their home and belongings might be the farthest thing from your mind. Granted, you are not obligated to sell the home right away, so don’t feel like you have to rush straight to probate court.
However, each state has its own laws surrounding probate timelines and must be adhered to. The process of submitting the will and distributing assets can take weeks, months, or even years, depending on your state. For example, most states allow you 30 days to submit a will to probate. In Alabama, you have as long as five years, while Georgia law simply says "as soon as possible."
It’s important to check with your state’s probate laws to find out exactly how much time you have. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and file as soon as possible. Otherwise, other beneficiaries could contest your role as executor of the estate and you could be held liable if beneficiaries are financially harmed by your resistance.
Understanding Your Role as the Executor
As the executor, it’s your job to handle and manage all of the deceased person’s assets, including any real estate. But even if a loved one has named you as the executor in the will, you’re not authorized to proceed with a real estate sale until the will goes through probate.
As the executor, you are required to submit the will to probate court. If there is no will, assets will pass through intestate succession. The probate court’s first priority is to determine the validity of the will so that the executor can proceed with settling the estate.
To start a real estate transaction, you’ll first need to contact the IRS to have the property released from probate. While the property is in probate, you are unable to list the home for sale or proceed with any transaction.
However, while you’re waiting for the green light, you should be taking care of the home and getting it in sell-ready condition. For example, you may need to make minor repairs to the home, keep the grass cut, and give the home a deep cleaning.
Also, use this waiting time to gather the appropriate documents that you’ll need to complete the transaction. This includes the property’s deed, proof of homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes. If necessary, you will need to pay the property taxes to avoid penalties or issues with the transaction.
Also, you should contact the homeowner’s insurance company to let them know the home is no longer occupied by the tenant. Some insurance companies advise you to increase coverage in case something happens to the home before you can sell it.
Finally, before you sell a home as the executor, you must gain buy-in from the other beneficiaries. For example, if the home is to be split between three beneficiaries, all three must decide to sell the home. Once you gain approval, you are free to proceed with selling the home.
Take Control of the Property
Executors should take control of the property as soon as possible for many reasons. For starters, you want to ensure the property is well taken care of, especially if the home will be unoccupied. It’s a good idea to change the locks and reroute the mail delivery to reduce the potential of tampering.
This also gives you a chance to collect the necessary documents related to the estate so you can pay off final debts (e.g. property taxes, bills for the home, etc.).
Ideally, you will either clear out everything in the home or have it professionally staged for viewing. At the minimum, you should remove any personal belongings that might hinder the sale of the home. If there are other beneficiaries in the will, you should set aside the items you remove so that they can be dealt with later.
Are You Ready to Sell an Inherited Property?
Your loved one’s house was once a home, and selling it can be difficult to come to terms with. Partnering with a real estate agent who understands the probate process can be an invaluable experience that lightens your responsibilities and removes much of the stress and guesswork from the situation.
If you’re selling an inherited home, Clever can help. Our Partner Agents are top-rated, full-service agents in their local markets, but work for a lower commission. This means you get to keep more of the home sale in your pocket to help pay for final expenses and lessen your financial burden.
Connect with Clever today for a no-obligation consultation to see how we can take some of the stress out of your executorship.