Legal Matters: What to know when selling mom's house
Selling a loved one’s former property after they pass requires the proper court appointment and proof of taxes paid.
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Q: My mom passed away several months ago and we are now cleaning up her estate. Her major asset is her home that we have had valued at $750,000. We would like to sell it this spring but have no idea what needs to be done legally to clean this up and allow us to sell the property. What are the next steps?
A: Typically, the first thing that needs to be done is you need to apply for probate for the will. This is court recognition of an individual who has the legal right and capacity to deal with the assets of the estate. Except in very specific circumstances, an estate must be probated in order to sell real estate because the registry office and the purchaser and their lawyer want to make sure that the executor has the court-appointed capacity to sell the property. This comes in the form of a certificate of appointment of estate trustee (with or without a will). This will also mean that the appropriate estate taxes — also known as probate fees — will be paid to the court prior to any disposal of any estate assets.
So, you can’t just turn around and sell a loved one’s former property: You need the proper court appointment and proof of taxes paid. You will probably require the assistance of your family lawyer to guide you through the process.
Jeffrey Cowan is a real estate lawyer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org