What happens to real estate when an owner passes away?

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2021 | Real estate transactions

Buying and selling homes are the most significant transactions that the average person makes. And when an owner passes away, their home can be the most sizable asset they leave behind.

Thus, it can help to know what happens to the home and what you can do to ensure yours goes to the right person.

Inheritance and intestate laws

When the sole owner of a home passes away, the fate of the house depends on whether the person had a will. If so, courts distribute the property to the person or organization the decedent identified in the will as the one to receive the home.

If there is no will, the courts will follow Arizona intestacy laws, which direct property transfers when an owner dies without a will.

An estate executor could also sell the house and use the profits to pay off debts.

Costs and considerations

There are several reasons why transferring or inheriting property after the owner dies can be more complicated than people think. 

First are the costs. Depending on where the property is, there could be significant taxes to pay. There may also be mortgages, utilities and renovations for which the recipient becomes liable.

Several legal issues can also arise when it comes to transferring property. You might learn that the decedent was not the sole owner or that defects on the title must be cleared before a person can take ownership. Further, other parties can get involved if there are easements or boundary disputes. 

These matters can delay a transfer and possibly jeopardize a transaction.

Protecting yourself and your loved ones

If you own your home, you can work with an attorney to prepare an estate plan that allows you to decide what will happen to your home if you become incapacitated or pass away. Doing so can minimize the complications your loved ones face at a difficult time.

If you are buying a new home, you will want to protect yourself from spending too much time or money on a property tied up in legal battles or proceedings. And you should feel confident when you sign the purchase agreement that you know everything there is to know about the home. Legal guidance will be crucial in these matters, as well.