Taking Care of the House: The Practical Side of Administering Real Estate
Beyond the legal challenges, being the executor of an estate also requires a lot of legwork, especially when an old family home is involved. A house does not simply freeze in time when its occupant passes away. Taxes and mortgage payments must still be made and maintenance and security need attention. All the while, the executor and other family members must quickly but wisely make some difficult decisions about what should become of the house and its contents. This is often further complicated by the emotions involved in packing up and walking away from a house where a parent or other loved one once lived.
Maintaining a house can be a tremendous drain on estate resources that mounts with every passing month. What’s more, the process of preparing a house for transfer, whether by will to a relative or by sale to someone else, can take some time. That is why it is important to come up with a plan of action as soon as possible:
· Check the deed to determine if anyone else may have an interest in the house or if it may pass outside of probate.
· Determine who would be entitled to the house under the will.
· Work with whichever heirs appear to be entitled to the house to determine their plans for the property. In many cases, heirs may not have any use for the property and may not want to take possession.
· Determine if there is an outstanding mortgage and, if so, how much is owed. If the house is “underwater,” allowing foreclosure or arranging a short sale may be in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries.
· Determine if, excluding the house, the estate has sufficient assets to pay all its creditors.
In addition to the property itself, the executor must also take stock of its contents and see to their security. This may include photographing the interior, making an inventory of valuable personal property, ensuring that it is secured and getting appraisals for inheritance tax purposes. The executor must identify any personal property specifically bequeathed by the will, work with the heirs to determine if there is any personal property they want to keep and then, typically, work with an auctioneer to see that the remainder is liquidated for a reasonable price.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for executors, paralyzed by doubt and emotion, to waste thousands of dollars in estate assets keeping up a house only to sell it in the end. An experienced New Jersey estate administration attorney in Union County can help you avoid this trap by walking you through the process, educating you as to your powers and responsibilities and helping you coordinate with heirs, lienholders, realtors, appraisers, auctioneers and anyone else you need. We can help you resolve your loved one’s affairs quickly and effectively. Call us today at 908-236-6457 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.