Can you sell the house you live in when a dead relative owns it?
The death of a family member is always an emotionally trying experience. Unfortunately, it also comes with its lot of legal and financial woes. If you have been living in the house of a dead relative, you may be wondering if you are entitled to sell it. After all, you likely maintained the property as your own for some time. You may also have been paying the property tax bill, part of the mortgage if applicable, and so on.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Whether you can sell the house of your dead relative depends on many factors. For example, did the deceased left a will? Is the property going through probate? Being the occupant of the house – even if you have lived there for many years – does not give you the legal right to sell it.
This article will help you figure out if – and how – you can sell the house you live in if a dead relative owns it. As always, when it comes to legal transactions, please hire the services of an attorney to sort the particulars of your situation and the documentation you need in your state.
Scenario 1: The dead relative left the property to you in their will
If the deceased family member leaves a will clearly naming you as the property’s legal owner after their passing, it will make it easier for you to sell the house. However, it is only the first step.
The property – as part of the estate of the deceased – still need to go through probate. This legal process ensures that all the heirs and designated beneficiaries and potential creditors receive their share. If no one contests the will, you should receive the deed of the property according to your dead relative’s last wishes. You can then sell the house if you wish. However, beware that the probate process takes on average six to nine months from the moment the probate case is opened with the court.
Scenario 2: You are the beneficiary of the property held in a Trust
A Trust is a legal document that allows the Settlors to manage their assets after their death, including who the beneficiaries are. A Trust also allows to bypass the lengthy probate process.
It is managed by a Trustee. Their job is to distribute the Settlors’ assets according to their wishes. In most cases, the Settlor will have included a provision in the Trust authorizing the Trustee to sell the house.
If your dead relative listed you as the beneficiary of the house, you have two options to sell the house. The Trustee can conduct the sale of the property on your behalf, giving you the proceeds. He or she can also transfer the property title to your name so you can conduct the transaction yourself.
Scenario 3: Your dead relative did not leave a will or a trust
Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario is a common one: only 4 in 10 American adults have set up a will or a living trust. If the owner of the house you live in dies intestate, it will be a lot more complicated to sell it.
The rules of inheritance vary depending on the state. Generally, the the heirs, , including the surviving spouse of the deceased and any children, receive an equal share. You may be able to avoid probate if all the heirs of the dead sign the deed of the house over to you. At this point, you will be able to sell the property.
Otherwise, the estate of the dead family member will go through probate. Unless you are the sole heir, it is unlikely that you will be able to sell the house. In most cases, the administrator of the estate appointed by the probate court conducts the sale of the property. The proceeds will be used to pay any creditor, and the remainder will be divided among the heirs.
Selling a property through probate is often a lengthy, complicated and emotionally taxing business. Cash home buyers like National Cash Offer can help you streamline the process, making it as easy and quick as possible. If you are considering selling your inherited home, we may be able to help.