How Probate Deals With Your Family Home

Law Blog

Being appointed executor of a will is both an honor and a huge responsibility, especially if you are a child of the deceased. Among the tasks of filing the will with the probate court and paying the estate bills, the primary task of an executor (or personal representative) is to distribute the estate according to the decedent's wishes. Some decedents use wording in their wills to indicate that the entire estate, including the family home, should be divided among several siblings, thus leaving the details of this division up to the executor. To find out more about the executor's duties and how an estate might be divided, read on.

What is an Estate?

An estate consists of not only the real estate, investment accounts and personal property of the deceased, but also the debts. Real estate usually makes up the largest portion, in regard to value, of estate assets. The probate process will ensure that any debts are paid from any assets; sometimes making it necessary to sell certain assets to pay creditors.

To comply with the will, the dividing of assets such as vehicles, art, jewelry and bank accounts are far more simple than dividing real estate that contains the family home. During probate, a major responsibility of the executor is to ensure that property continues to function smoothly. The final disposition of the family home must be placed in limbo to await the end of probate.

Family Home Executor Duties

  • Pay property taxes and homeowners insurance.
  • Pay any mortgage and/or home equity lines of credit.
  • Keep any necessary utilities paid. For example, electricity, gas and water may be necessary, cable TV and internet may not be necessary.
  • Ensure that any maintenance and repairs are made to the home.
  • Pay condominium, home owners' association or storage fees.
  • Pay for any preparation for putting the home on the market, such as clean outs. (This only if you are relatively certain that you will place the home on the market for sale).

At Probate's Completion

The length of time to complete probate can vary, depending on your state, the size of the estate and whether or not the will was contested. Once the court approves the will, you may begin dispersing the estate. For real estate, most states require a professional appraisal, which could assist in making better decisions about how to handle its disposition once you know the value. Keep in mind that the disposition of your family home should not be a job for a probate judge to decide, but if you and your siblings cannot come to a decision, the court will step in and make the decision for you.

Generally, you have 3 choices for the home's disposition:

  1. Divide the profit or proceeds from the home's sale.
  2. One sibling buys the other siblings' interest in the home.
  3. Other property from the estate is used to even-out the division when one sibling wants the home. For example, one sibling who wants the home is willing to give up their part of an investment account.

Contact an estate or probate attorney such as Robert Stone Attorney at Law to assist in making sure that you fairly and property fulfill the responsibilities of executor.



17 November 2015

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