Planning Ahead Can Ease the Stress of Selling a Loved One’s Home When They Pass

May 16, 2024

, ,

When you lose a loved one, there are so many things you find yourself dealing with, beyond just the sadness of your loss. It’s almost impossible to prepare for everything that has to be thought about and addressed.

Handling the estate of someone who has passed is often more involved and complex than many people expect. “Estate” is a broad term that involves many different things, but one of the largest elements of one’s estate is often the real estate they owned, which, for most people, is their home.

A recent article from illustrated just how challenging it can be to deal with the home of a loved one who has passed. When a man in Massachusetts lost his mom, he planned on fixing the home up on his own before selling it. But it proved to be more work than he anticipated or could handle. Here’s a few of the issues he had to contend with:

  • Water issues in the basement, which caused extensive mold problems.
  • A kitchen that he began renovating, but couldn’t finish.
  • An overgrown yard which triggered the neighbors to contact the town, resulting in potential fines if he didn’t remedy the situation within a matter of days.
  • Once he decided to just sell the house “as-is” he ran into probate issues, and had to file additional paperwork, delaying the sale of the property.
  • Trying to figure out who the solar panel company was that his mother had a contract with took time, and it also entailed dealing with them to release future owners of any obligation to them.

All of that effort cost him time and money, and could have been avoided, at least to some degree. While it’s probably an extreme example, it’s a good reminder that planning ahead can save you a lot of time, stress, and money when the time comes.

Tips for Preparing to Sell Your Loved One’s Home When They Pass

Every family, house, and situation is different, but here are a few things to consider doing that’ll make the process of selling your loved one’s home as smooth as possible when the time comes.

  1. Have the tough conversations while you can. Death is not a topic most people enjoy discussing, which is why many families find themselves unprepared when the time comes. It’s helpful if you can initiate conversations about their house directly with them, and any other relatives that will be impacted upon their passing, such as siblings or cousins.Too many families are torn apart fighting over the estate of a loved one. While you might think this only happens in families who already have tension, it happens to even the closest of families. When the time comes, everybody in a family may have different perspectives and motivations about what to do with the house, such as:
    • Some may want to settle the estate as quickly as possible because they simply don’t want to deal with it any longer than necessary, even if it means losing some money.
    • Some may want nothing to do with the process until it comes down to decision-making moments, and then they decide to add their two cents, which ends up angering everyone else who had to do the work to get to that point.
    • Some may want to ask a ridiculously high price for the house and be willing to wait months, or even years for it to sell, because they either don’t really need the money quickly or want as much as possible.
    • A family member may feel entitled to money when they’re really not, and could try to hold up the process legally or otherwise.

    Those are just to illustrate a few examples of how family members who are not on the same page can make the sale of property more difficult and stressful after the passing of a loved one.

    So, while it probably isn’t something anyone wants to do, having conversations about how things will be handled ahead of time can make for a more peaceful and successful process when the time comes.

  2. Here are some professionals you should consider consulting. To ensure that the legal and financial aspects are in order upon their death, enlist the help of knowledgeable advisors ahead of time, such as:
    • An accountant
    • An attorney
    • An estate planner / financial advisor

    If there is a professional in any one of these fields who has already been dealing with the affairs of your loved one, ask your relative to introduce you to them and loop you into any relevant information or conversations with them.

  3. Establish how much the house is worth. While you might need an actual appraisal done on the house when the time comes, getting a baseline for how much the house is worth in the current market is helpful. Ask a real estate agent to do a comparative market analysis, and update it occasionally as time passes.Also ask the agent for input on any work they suggest needs to be done to the house to optimize the market value, and make the sale of it more smooth when the time comes. This will allow you to make better decisions on what work to do, and not do, and get it done over time.
  4. Don’t wait to start prepping the house for sale. No matter what age or stage of life a person is in, it takes time to properly prep a house for sale. But oftentimes, when a person has lived in a home for many years, they’ve accumulated a lot of belongings, and haven’t updated or maintained the home in some time. Rather than wait until they pass, try helping them declutter their house, clean it up, and get any maintenance done bit by bit over time.

It’s always difficult to lose someone you love, but if you prepare ahead of time, it will hopefully make the process of handling the sale of their home much easier on you and the rest of your family.

The Takeaway:

Losing a loved one is tough, and handling their estate can be overwhelming, especially when it involves selling their home. To make the process smoother, have difficult conversations about the house with family members early on to avoid conflicts later.

Consult professionals like accountants, attorneys, estate planners, and real estate agents to ensure legal and financial aspects are in order. Start prepping the house in advance by decluttering and maintaining it over time, so when the time comes, the process is smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.