Selling Your Parents’ House After They Pass Away

Table of Contents

A Step-By-Step Guide To Selling Your Parents' House After They Pass Away


Dealing with the passing of a parent is an emotional and challenging time, and selling their home can add an extra layer of stress to an already exhausting time of your life. This article will provide practical tips and guidance to help you navigate selling a parent's home after their passing.

There are numerous tasks to accomplish when selling a house inherited from your parents. Nevertheless, systematically tackling each step of the process can help alleviate some of the pressure.

Step 1: Determine the status of your parents' estate.

You may know or at least assume you will inherit your parents' house someday, but do you understand exactly how that process works? As our parents age, it's essential to understand the status of their estate and make necessary arrangements to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes. You must also ensure you have a legal right to sell assets, including their house.

Establishing the status of your parents' estate can be daunting, but it's critical to avoid complications and legal disputes down the road. In this article, we'll cover the basics of probate, living trusts, and transfers on death deeds, helping you understand which option is right for your parents' estate.

There are three main ways to inherit a house from your parents: a living trust, a death deed transfer, or a probate process.

Living Trust

A living trust is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets should be distributed after death. Unlike probate, a living trust allows the estate to avoid the court system, resulting in a quicker and less expensive distribution of assets.

A living trust can also help you avoid estate taxes and keep the details of the estate's distribution private. A living trust can be revocable or irrevocable, meaning it can be changed or terminated at any time or set in stone. The person creating the trust can also serve as the trustee, or they can appoint someone else to manage it.

Transfer on Death Deed

A transfer on death deed, also known as a beneficiary deed or TOD, is a legal document that allows a person to transfer their real estate to a designated beneficiary after they die.

Unlike probate and living trusts, a TOD deed does not require a court to distribute the assets, resulting in a quicker and less expensive process. So while you may avoid probate, with a TOD, you will still need to pay taxes on the house. It's important to note that TOD deeds only apply to real estate and do not cover other assets such as bank accounts, stocks, or personal property.

This type of deed is only valid in certain states, and the laws governing these deeds vary from state to state.


Probate is a legal process after someone dies, in which a court determines how their assets should be distributed. If your parents have no will, prepare for the probate process.

The process involves:

  • Verifying the validity of the deceased's will.
  • Appraising their property.
  • Paying off any outstanding debts or taxes.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to their heirs.

Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process, often taking six months to a year or longer, and can eat away at a significant portion of the estate's value. Probate laws vary from state to state.

Step 2: Identifying the Estate Executor

The first step in the estate administration process is to identify the executor. The executor is appointed to administer the estate and carry out the deceased's wishes as outlined in their will. If the deceased did not have a will, the court would appoint an administrator to handle the estate administration process.

Identifying the executor is crucial because they are responsible for managing the estate and ensuring that all debts are paid, taxes are filed, and assets are distributed according to the deceased's wishes. If the wrong person is appointed executor, it can cause legal complications and delay the estate administration process.

Notifying Interested Parties

Once the executor has been identified, the next step is to notify all interested parties. Interested parties include beneficiaries named in the will, heirs-at-law, and creditors. It is essential to inform all interested parties so that they have an opportunity to contest the will or make a claim against the estate.

Notification should be done in writing and should include the following:

  • The name of the deceased.
  • The date of death.
  • The name and contact information of the executor.

The notification should also include a deadline by which interested parties must make a claim or contest the will.

Handling Potential Complications

During the estate administration process, it is common for complications to arise. One potential complication is when an interested party contests the will or claims the estate. In this situation, seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in estate administration and probate law is important.

Another potential complication is when multiple executors are appointed or multiple wills conflict. In this situation, it is essential to seek legal advice to determine the best course of action.

Step 3: Handle Inheritance Disagreements Before They Become Full-Blown Disputes

Inheriting assets is only sometimes straightforward, and family members often have differing views when dividing up inherited wealth. These disagreements can quickly turn into full-blown disputes if they are not handled correctly.

Start the Conversation Early

One of the most effective ways to handle inheritance disagreements is to start the conversation early. Early discussions help to identify potential issues and allow for more effective problem-solving. By discussing the inheritance and the distribution of assets while the testator is still alive, family members can clearly understand what to expect and avoid any surprises after the testator has passed away.

Get Professional Help

Inheritance can involve complex legal and financial issues that require professional help. Professionals can provide impartial advice that helps avoid disputes and ensure that the distribution of assets is fair and equitable. Seeking advice from a lawyer, financial planner, or mediator can help clarify any ambiguities and ensure everyone understands their rights and obligations.

Be Open and Honest

Clear communication is essential when it comes to handling inheritance disagreements. Family members should be open and honest about their feelings, concerns, and expectations. Hiding information or avoiding difficult conversations can lead to misunderstandings and fuel resentment. Being transparent and upfront can build trust and foster a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

Listen to Other Perspectives

Inheritance can be an emotional issue that can trigger various reactions. It's essential to listen to other perspectives and understand where family members are coming from. Being empathetic and respectful can help to build bridges and reduce the risk of disagreements escalating into something more serious.

Create a Plan

A well-crafted plan can help to prevent inheritance disagreements from turning into disputes. Ensuring the plan is transparent, fair, and equitable is essential. The plan should include details on the distribution of assets, responsibilities, and timelines. All family members should have a say in the planning process to ensure their concerns are addressed.

Step 4: Enlist the services of a real estate agent with experience selling inherited properties -OR- Sell it to a cash buyer.

Why hire an agent experienced in selling inherited houses?

Selling an inherited house can be complicated, and an experienced agent can help simplify it. Here are some reasons why you should consider hiring an agent experienced in selling inherited houses:

  1. They understand the emotional impact of selling an inherited house: Inheriting a house can be a bittersweet experience. While you may have fond memories of the house, it can also be a reminder of the person who passed away. An experienced agent can empathize with your situation and provide the emotional support you need during selling.
  2. They know the legal requirements of selling an inherited house: When you inherit a house, legal requirements must be met before you can sell it. An experienced agent will be familiar with these requirements and can guide you through the process.
  3. They have a network of professionals: Selling a house involves a lot of paperwork and legal procedures. An experienced agent will have a network of professionals, such as attorneys and home inspectors, who can help with these procedures.
  4. They can help you set the right price: Setting the right price for your inherited house is crucial. An experienced agent will be familiar with the local market and can help you set a fair and competitive price.
  5. They can market your house effectively: An experienced agent will know how to market your home to potential buyers. They'll have access to multiple listing services and other marketing tools that can help get your house in front of the right buyers.

If you've inherited a property and want a hassle-free process, consider selling it to a cash buyer.

When someone passes away, the loved ones are often left responsible for handling the estate, including any real estate properties. One of the biggest challenges they may face is selling an inherited property. It can be a complicated process that involves many legal and financial procedures. To make matters worse, it can be an emotional experience. In many cases, the property may need repairs or renovations before it can be sold, which adds to the complexity of the process. However, selling inherited property to a cash buyer can be an excellent option for a streamlined experience.

Advantages of Selling an Inherited Property to a Cash Buyer

Selling an inherited property to a cash buyer can be a good choice for several reasons. Here are some advantages:

  1. Quick Sale: Cash buyers are investors willing to buy the property as-is without needing repairs or renovations. They have the financial means to pay in cash and can complete the purchase quickly. This can be beneficial when you want to sell the property quickly and move on.
  2. No Need for Real Estate Agents: When you sell to a cash buyer, you don't need to involve real estate agents. This can save you thousands of dollars in commission fees. You also avoid the lengthy process of finding a suitable agent and listing the property.
  3. No Need for Repairs or Renovations: When you sell to a cash buyer, you don't need to worry about repairs or renovations. Cash buyers are willing to buy the property as-is, regardless of its condition.
  4. Avoiding Legal and Financial Procedures: Selling an inherited property can involve many legal and financial procedures, such as probate court, liens, and taxes. Selling to a cash buyer can help you avoid these procedures and streamline the process.

Going For Sale by Owner (FSBO)

If you're the DIY type and want to take on the challenge of selling your home on your own, there are some benefits to going FSBO. For one, you won't have to pay an agent commission, which means you could net more money from the sale. However, there are some downsides to consider:

  1. Pricing the home correctly: It can be challenging to price your home accurately without access to the same data as real estate agents. This can result in your home sitting on the market for too long or selling for less than it's worth.
  2. Marketing the home: FSBO sellers are responsible for marketing their own homes, which can be time-consuming and challenging if you need to familiarize yourself with the process. You'll need to take photos of your home, create a listing on relevant websites, and promote your home on social media.
  3. Negotiating with a buyer: Negotiating with a buyer can be tricky. You'll need to handle negotiations confidently and professionally to get the best possible price for your home.
  4. Filling out paperwork and disclosures: Like selling with an agent, selling FSBO involves a lot of paperwork. You'll need to be able to fill out contracts, disclosures, and other legal documents correctly and on time.
  5. Navigating the escrow and closing process: FSBO sellers are also responsible for guiding the escrow and closing process, which can be complicated and time-consuming. This involves coordinating with the buyer's agent, the title company, and other parties.

Step 5: Review your parents' home insurance policy and secure the house.

Reviewing the home insurance policy is crucial if you plan to sell your parents' home, and it will be vacant until it's sold. An empty house is more susceptible to break-ins and vandalism, making it important to have the right insurance coverage.

Assess Your Parents' Current Home Insurance Policy

Before making any changes to your parents' home insurance policy, review the current policy. Check whether the policy covers damages caused by vandalism and break-ins for a vacant property. Most standard insurance policies do not cover damages incurred in such cases.

Many insurance companies offer specific policies covering vacant homes, but you must be proactive in switching to a new one. Suppose the current policy does not provide adequate coverage for a vacant house. In that case, you need to contact the insurance company immediately to find out how to obtain a vacant home insurance policy.

Consider the Cost of a Vacant Home Insurance Policy

The cost of vacant home insurance policies varies depending on the coverage and location of the property. Generally, a vacant home insurance policy is more expensive than a standard one, as the risk of damages and break-ins is higher. However, having the right insurance coverage can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

In addition to the premium, you may need to pay an additional fee for an inspection to ensure that the property is secured and protected. Some insurance companies may require you to install a security system, such as an alarm or surveillance camera, to qualify for coverage.

Switch to a Vacant Home Insurance Policy

To switch to a vacant home insurance policy, contact your parents' current insurance provider to determine what steps you need to take. The insurance company may require you to provide documentation showing the vacant property, such as a copy of the sales contract or proof of an extended vacation. You may also need to provide evidence that the property is secured and protected, such as photos or an inspection report.

Once you have switched to a vacant home insurance policy, review the coverage and terms of the policy carefully. Ensure you understand what is and is not covered and any exclusions or limitations.

Keeping Your Parents' House Secure

Don't Let the Mail Pile Up

One of the simplest and most effective ways to secure your parents' house is by preventing mail from piling up in the mailbox or on the porch. Piled-up mail signals potential burglars that no one is home and the house is an easy target. If you prefer to leave the mailbox as is, ensure someone collects it regularly, so it is manageable. Arrange with the postal service to have the mail forwarded to your address or a post office box.

Change the Locks

Changing the locks should be a top priority after your parents pass away. This step ensures that anyone who might have had a key to the property no longer has access. Additionally, it gives you peace of mind that the property is secure. Hire a professional locksmith to install new locks on all doors and windows, including the garage and shed.

Lock All Windows and Doors

Ensure all the windows and doors are locked when the house is unoccupied. This includes entry points like backdoors, side doors, and basement windows. Installing deadbolts, security bars, and sensors on doors and windows can further enhance the house's security.

Don't Overshare on Social Media

Avoid sharing information about your parents' passing or property on social media. Posting pictures or comments about an unoccupied property can attract unwanted attention and invite potential burglars to target the property. Consider posting about the property's sale or transfer after all legal formalities are completed.

Set up a Home Security Camera

A home security camera system can provide your parent's property additional security. Modern security cameras come with motion sensors, live streaming, and remote monitoring capabilities, which can help you monitor the property from anywhere. Install cameras in strategic locations, including the front and back doors and any blind spots around the property.

Install a Motion Sensor Light

Motion sensor lights can help deter burglars and intruders. These lights are designed to switch on when they detect motion in the area they cover, which can startle or scare off anyone attempting to enter the property. Install motion sensor lights around the house, especially in entry points like the garage, back, and side doors.

Make It Appear Like Someone Is Home

Making the property appear like someone is home can help prevent burglars from targeting it. Use automated lighting systems to turn lights on and off in different rooms throughout the day. This will give the impression that someone is moving around the house. You can also ask a neighbor or a friend to park their car in your driveway or mow the lawn to give the impression that someone is home.

Keep Valuables in a Safe

A safe can help keep your parents' valuables and important documents secure. The safe should be fire-resistant and waterproof, and the combination or key should be kept in a safe place, not inside the property. It is essential to store the safe in a location that is not easily visible or accessible.

Step 6: Allocate your parents' property

If you're in charge of settling your deceased parents' estate, one of your responsibilities will be to go through and distribute their personal belongings to heirs and clear out the rest of the house. Here are some tips to help you navigate this complex process.

Distribute Personal Property to Heirs

Before you can move on to clearing out the home, it's important to make sure any personal property designated for heirs is properly distributed. This might include items like family heirlooms, sentimental possessions, or assets that were specifically bequeathed to certain family members.

If you're named as the personal representative, you must ensure that all of these items are given to their intended recipients, as stated in your parents' will. This might involve working with a probate court and inventorying the entire property before distribution.

If there is no named executor or personal representative, it's up to you and the other heirs to decide how to distribute the contents of the house. This can be complicated, especially if multiple heirs want the same item. Consider hiring a mediator to help you come to a resolution.

Clear Out the Rest of the House

Once you've distributed any personal property to heirs, you'll need to clear out the rest of the house. This can be overwhelming, especially if you're dealing with many personal belongings.

One option is to have an estate sale. This can help you earn some extra money while eliminating unwanted items. Estate sale companies can help you sell unclaimed personal property, and the fees can be deducted from the proceeds at the end of the sale. If you can't afford the fees of hiring an estate sale company, you can also consider having one done through the escrow process.

Another option is to hold an auction for any disputed items. This can help resolve disputes between bickering heirs, as the highest bid can win the item.

In any case, it's important to go through your parents' belongings and decide what to keep, sell, and donate or dispose of. This process can take time, but with patience and a clear plan, you can successfully dispose of your parents' personal property and move forward with selling their home.

Final Thoughts

Selling an inherited home can be an emotional and challenging experience. However, by preparing the home properly and working with the right professionals, you can achieve a successful and stress-free sale. Consider these tips to help you prepare your inherited house for sale and achieve your desired outcome.

If you need assistance, don't hesitate to contact us! We have over a decade of experience in Des Moines, Iowa, for traditional real estate and cash-offer house sales.

Call Now for Your Cash Offer
This is default text for notification bar