Being a Realtor® and helping people buy and sell homes is not always the fun people think it is.  We have to deal with some very sad and emotionally distressing times and guide our clients through the process while they are having to deal with an emotionally charged situation which can be both mentally and physically exhausting.

One of those situations is when they are dealing with the Estate of a loved one who has passed away. This is always a very sad and often a very difficult time to navigate because there are usually many people involved.

There are also times when an estate is not divided as many family members think it should and that in itself can increase the turmoil.

The whole situation can be very painful, and people often don’t act very rationally when they are trying to deal with a loved ones estate. Trying to navigate the selling process all while having to deal with the immense grief to be expected from a sad situation like this would take its toll on anyone.

If you have been entrusted with the Estate of a family member who has passed, that loved one must have thought very highly of you to leave you with the important duty of overseeing their end-of-life affairs, yet along with the humbleness you may be experiencing right now, you might also feel stressed out, confused and overwhelmed as you try to figure out the best way to administer your loved one’s estate.


Here’s some important must-do’s to help you through the process.


1. Pay the bills for the home.

It is in your best interest to stay current with the bills related to the home – like the mortgage, utilities, and maintenance – until you finalize the home sale. While the passing of your loved one is important to you, the mortgage company (if applicable) and other service providers still expect to be paid.

Paying the bills, however, should be done through the estate and NOT personally and keep a track of all the transactions made through the estate.


2. Collect all the necessary documents related to the home.

One of the least enjoyable, but most necessary, things that those left behind need to do is collect all required financial documents.

Financial documents are essential for the distribution of the estate, including the home. Without all the necessary documents things become much more complicated.

You may have to search for a while to find everything you need. Often all documents won’t be in the same place. Sometimes people will stash them in hidden places. It is worth the time to search everywhere, including crawl spaces, the attic, the garage, go through all the boxes and files, and even look under the mattress and drawers.

The documents you will want to gather may include:

  • Will – If there is a will, it will significantly simplify the distribution of the estate.
  • Receipts from bills – You will need to freeze your relative’s credit and contact all creditors.
  • Investment documents – Your loved-one may have invested in stocks etc.
  • Insurance documents – There may be a policy from an employer, or one purchased privately.
  • Property Insurance Policy – Keep property insurance up to date and increase coverage if necessary.
  • Bank details – You want accurate information on all of your relative’s bank accounts.

Personal documents – If your relative had any personal documents, like journals, diaries, you might like to have them at a later date for sentimental reasons.

It is advisable to ensure you correctly destroy private information. It is a common thing for identity thieves to use information and SIN numbers of the deceased for criminal activity. By eliminating all documents with the number on it, you make identity theft more difficult.


3. Change the locks and redirect the mail delivery

When selling a home as an estate sale, it is essential you have complete control of the property. This includes redirecting the mail, so you receive it in a timely fashion, along with enhancing the home’s security. Keep in mind there are going to be folks who know about the death that took place and the fact the home may be vacant.

You will be surprised how many keys have been given out on a property over the years. Whether it is friends, relatives, the babysitter or various contractors who have done work. It is better to be safe than sorry.


4. Go through everything in the home

Buyers are not going to be interested in the majority of your relative’s possessions, so ideally you will clear out the home altogether – and have it staged professionally for sale – or at least take out all the personal belongings and only leave behind enough furniture to aid in the sale.

Clearing out an entire home of someone’s possessions, particularly if you have emotional ties to them, can be tiring and stressful. That is why it is helpful to have a process that makes things a little more straightforward – to do this stick to the 4 organizational basics, KEEP, DONATE, THROW, SELL.

If there are things that family members are going to want, especially items that there may be some dispute over, go ahead and set them aside to deal with later. The sooner you get everything out of the home, the sooner you can put it on the market.

If your parents were in the fortunate position of owning a lot of valuable possessions it may be prudent to hold an estate sale of these things. Having an estate sale will allow you to maximize the value of your parent’s belongings.


5. Get the Home Ready to Sell

Once you have processed all the personal possessions of your relative, you will be ready for the actual sale. At this point, you will go through much the same steps as any other home seller – although some minor differences may apply.

Often when selling a home that was owned by an older relative, or a house that has been occupied for decades, there is extra work involved in prepping for sale. This can be one of the most challenging parts of selling a deceased parents home.

The house may be quite dated, including old wallpaper, decorations, carpet, paint, etc. It may also have damage that has gone unaddressed for a long time. You will want to bring in a reputable real estate agent to give you advice on what needs to be changed or repaired before you put the home on the market. If you want to get the best possible price, you may need to make some changes, but remember, there is never a guarantee that you will get all the money back that you invest on improvements.

The least you should be doing is having a pre-listing home inspection so you can address any maintenance issues.

When selecting a real estate agent in an estate sale, you might want to look for an agent who has some experience with this type of transaction and is sensitive to the situation. As you have gathered from reading, there are a lot of things to consider when selling a home after the death of a relative.


Final Thoughts

Selling a home in an estate sale after the death of a loved one can be a trying experience. Homes often conjure up happy memories that can invoke our inner emotions.

It is always hard to let go of a house that has become a home and a place that holds wonderful family memories, but staying true to your loved-ones final wishes is the most honourable thing you can do and memories can be taken with you wherever you go.

If you are dealing with the estate of a loved-on who has passed or have questions or concerns don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can book an appointment through the blue CONTACT at the bottom of this page.


Photos: Canva

This article is not intended to solicit buyers or sellers currently in contract with other members of the PEIREA. Using this article in full or part without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2019 Melanie Press Real Estate.

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