Property Issues

The days and weeks after the passing of a loved one are grueling. What should be a time of mourning is often spent settling medical bills, contacting friends and family, and, of course, worrying about what’s going to happen with the house. In some cases that means the transfer of property after death without will.

What if you want to downsize, move to be closer to family or even add a second home? Here are some tips that can help you deal with the property issues that may come up after the death of a loved one.

Many people who lose a loved one may not know that selling an estate is not as simple as putting a For Sale sign in the yard. There are a few crucial steps that must be taken before you can officially sell the property.

The first step is to determine the estate’s legal status. This means, figuring out how you can start inheriting the property, whether through the probate process, living trust, or transfer on death deed.

If the deceased had a will, then the executor of the estate (the person responsible for carrying out the decedent’s wishes) will file it with the court. The court will then review the will to make sure it is valid and that all debts and taxes are paid.

However, if the deceased did not have a will, in which case they are "intestate," then the court will appoint an administrator to handle the estate. The administrator will be responsible for distributing the assets according to state law.

Once all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid, the remaining assets will be given to the decedent’s heirs. If there is no living heir, then the assets will go to the state.

Due to the complex nature of the probate process, the law can vary from state to state so be sure to check with an attorney in your area to see what the process entails. Click here for more information on Legal Considerations.

A living trust is an arrangement where a person (the grantor) transfers their assets to a trustee. The trustee then manages the assets for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries.

One of the best benefits of having a living trust is that it doesn’t go through the probate process. This means that the distribution of assets can happen much quicker and without court supervision.

Another advantage of a living trust is that it can help the grantor avoid estate taxes. To do this, the grantor must transfer all their assets to the trust before they pass away.

Most people create a living trust to avoid probate and to reduce estate taxes. If you are thinking of creating a living trust, it is important to speak with an attorney to make sure you are aware of all the benefits and drawbacks.

A Transfer on Death Deed (TOD deed) is a legal document that allows a person to transfer ownership of their property to another person after they die. The TOD deed must be recorded with the county recorder’s office for it to be valid.

TOD does not go through probate, which means that the transfer of ownership can happen much quicker and without court supervision.

Unlike the trust, TOD does not help you avoid or reduce estate taxes but is still a good option if you want to avoid probate.

Once you’ve determined the legal status of the estate, the next step is to identify the key roles and tasks that need to be completed to sell the property. Below is a checklist featuring the key players involved.

  • Heirs/inheritors: The heirs or inheritors are the people who will receive the property after the death of the owner. They can be determined by a will or by state law if there is no will.

  • Estate executor: The executor is the person appointed by the will to administer the estate. They are responsible for settling all debts and distributing the assets according to the will. If there is no will, then the court will appoint an administrator.

  • Real estate agent: A real estate agent will help you list and sell the property. They can also provide you with market data and advice on how to price the property.

  • Estate attorney: An estate attorney can help you with the legal aspects of selling the property, such as preparing and filing the will and handling probate.

  • Appraiser: An appraiser will help you determine the value of the property.

  • Home inspector: A home inspector will inspect the property to identify any potential problems that need to be addressed before listing the property for sale.

These are a few of the property issues that you may deal with after the death of a loved one. Be sure to consult with an attorney and a licensed realtor in your area to get more specific advice on what needs to be done with your personal situation.

Buying or selling a home or property after the death of a loved one is complicated. A licensed, experienced realtor can help in many ways:

  • Find a property if you are moving to be closer to family

  • Selling a family home

  • Buying a second home

  • Finding the right buyer for your property

  • Finding a renter or rental property

  • Help stage the property for sale

  • Help you find vendors to help with the move in or move out

  • Find an appraiser

  • Run a market analysis of property

An experienced real estate professional who is well versed in estate sales can take a lot of the burden off of you during your time of grief.

If you have any questions, please contact us:

  • By phone: (888) 802-0999, available 24/7. (Se Habla Español.)
  • By email: [email protected]
  • By chat: 7AM - 10PM Eastern Time, seven days a week; click on the round red chat button on the bottom right of the screen.

If you are in immediate need because a death has already occurred, order a direct cremation now. If a death is imminent (a matter of days or weeks), visit the Cremstar Cremation Cost Calculator for an estimate and to email yourself a customized "Order Now" link. If you are preparing for the future, visit our Planning Ahead section.