This is part two of a two part series that provides a practical checklist for early stage activities for an executor who is charged with managing and selling residential real property and its contents. In the first part, we looked at some steps to secure the asset and in this segment; we will review immediate financial concerns.
As you are going through the dwelling getting a feel for what to do next, you will certainly come across paperwork of various types. Get a few medium to large boxes very early on in the process, label them “Legal and Financial”, “Personal”, “Photos” and “Other”. As items come to your attention, begin the sorting process. “Touch paper once”, the oft quoted phrase, certainly applies if you want to move through this stage as efficiently as you can. Be open of course to those therapeutic instances of grieving that will most likely come when it is best to simply stop and experience the sadness of the moment and allow the healing to happen.
The key real estate documents you are looking for are the “Abstract of Title” also known as “the search”. This is typically printed on legal size paper with a stiff cover and will show all prior ownership interests in the property. It is about $1500. to replace if not available and about a third of that cost to update when you do have the seller’s original document to work with. In addition, any paperwork that says “satisfaction of mortgage”, “deed” or “survey” will save you substantial later efforts as these assist your attorney in establishing that the property was clearly owned by the descendent and that any claims against the property have been satisfied.
Regarding property and casualty insurance, it’s important for you to speak to a knowledgeable insurance professional that you trust regarding what is the appropriate coverage. There are mixed opinions about the right thing to do here. Some people will tell you to say nothing to the current insurance carrier and just make the payments as scheduled. Others will tell you that the deceased person’s coverage is not adequate as the dwelling is no longer occupied by the owner and that you will have difficulty if you attempt to collect on a claim.
In many situations, family and friends may wish to keep items that belonged to the deceased. There are many ways to resolve this from simply taking turns choosing things to submitting lists of desired items to the executor for review and decision. The biggest hold up can be getting people to come and take things. A healthy approach for an executor to take is notifying everyone that there is a deadline when you plan on either plan on signing with an estate liquidator or donating all remaining items and desired objects need to be removed before that scheduled date. If there is sufficient notice given and a reasonable time period to move items, no one can complain later.
I would also tell you to resist the urge to dispose of items. If an estate sale is a possible course of action, many estate liquidators include complete clean out as part of their sale services. It is best not to waste time gathering up garbage unless you just want to do it before people come through the house. You always knew in the back of your mind that this day would come; you just didn’t think it would be this soon. With a clear plan of action, you can resolve this important task with peace of mind for yourself and much deserved dignity for the departed.
Reprinted with permission from the Buffalo New Home Finder