What happens when a home owner dies? Or more specifically, an older parent or other relative. Bottom line - until it is sold or otherwise disposed of, the house has to be managed.
Most often, it is adult children or close relatives who are challenged with the daunting task of finding and paying those bills, managing tax records, working through years of memories and deciding how and when the property will be sold.
For example, did you know insurance policies on a house automatically lapse at the death of the policyholder? Even if premiums were up to date, a burst pipe, storm damage or fire would not be covered unless another policy were in place.
And because vacant houses are more subject to mishaps, insurance companies are not eager to issue such policies.
Turning off utilities or getting them put in another name takes an "enormous number of death certificates" according to Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for livable communities at AARP and author of "Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide."
Clearing out the house is another aspect of 'managing' and one that is often fraught with emotional and physical exhaustion. Many people choose to do the work themselves but two kinds of help are available - for a fee.
First, estate sale companies. Most companies require a certain minimum dollars worth of possessions and then take a percentage of the sales. If most of the contents of a house are NOT going to children or other relatives then this could be an excellent solution - especially since the company does all the work of organizing the sale. Be sure and negotiate the disposal of all items that do not sell however.
Second is a newer form of help - "senior move managers." A local company in Springfield, VA, "Busy Buddies" will do almost anything a client needs, including shipping furniture out of town or meeting with real estate agents. Busy Buddies also provide help to home owners making a transition from a house to a retirement or life care facility.
Selling the house is usually the last step. A good real estate agent can help you make crucial decisions about what to leave in the house, pricing, settlement dates, etc. As Ginzler wisely notes 'This is not about getting the most, most money for you or for the estate. It is about the proper disposition of things."
I hope you have learned something new about what happens when a home owner dies, I know I have.
For all your residential real estate needs in Northern Virginia, it's Michael Bergin at 703.927.4554.
"Rangers Lead the Way"