How to Sell a House When a Relative Dies in Massachusetts

Losing a loved one is always difficult, emotionally and logistically. You have the emotional struggle of coming to terms with what has happened plus all the logistics in terms of burial, their will, and selling the deceased person’s home. This is known as an estate sale and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety if not prepared for and dealt with properly. 

In many ways, selling the home of a deceased loved one is similar to selling any other home, but there are additional things to consider. Being prepared to properly address the potential difficulties of the estate sale will make this process much less stressful. In this article, we’ll look at the best way to sell a house in Massachusetts after your relative has passed away. 

Important things to know when selling the home of a deceased loved one

Familiarize Yourself with Probate Law

In 2012, the Probate Law changed in Massachusetts and it involves validating the will, establishing who will be the personal representative (we used to call this the executor), the deceased’s assets will be distributed, and how the house will be sold.

This 2012 change sped up the whole process, saving families time and money. If a will has been left and contains permission to sell the home, the personal representative must file papers with the probate court, commencing the process of distributing the assets. If the deceased didn’t leave a will, the court appoints a personal representative who will handle the estate.

Consider If You Need a License to Sell

If there’s no will or it doesn’t include the power to sell, the personal representative should ask the court for a license to sell the home, making sure there are no claims or debts involved in the estate.

Once the personal representative has the license, they can sell the property by gathering documents including the original death certificate, equivalent IRS form confirming that all estate taxes have been paid, a tax affidavit confirming that no estate taxes are due or an M-792 form (Certificate Releasing Massachusetts Estate Tax Lien).

This sounds much scarier than it is, but if you need help here, paying for an attorney to guide you through is well worth it.

Remember You Need to Continue Paying the Bills

Stay on top of the bills related to the home – keep an eye on maintenance, mortgage, and utilities until you finalize the sale. Make sure that all bills are paid and continue to be paid until the sale of the home is complete. It’s important to note that bills should be paid through the estate, not personally.

If the deceased was elderly, they may have chosen to take out a reverse mortgage to finance their twilight years. If this is the case, make sure you find out what the lender requires of you until the home is sold and the equity is released to pay back what your relative borrowed. In most cases, you will not be required to make monthly payments for the reverse mortgage.

Maintain Insurance and Consider Security

Sometimes, it can take some time to sell the home after your loved one passes. Whatever the reason, make sure you maintain building and, if necessary, contents insurance on the home, especially if the home is going to remain uninhabited for some time.

Also, consider any necessary property maintenance the home may need until it’s sold. The last thing you want is for the home’s value to fall because you failed to maintain the property. This will likely be simple and budget-friendly things like maintaining the yard and keeping the heating on at a low level in the winter to prevent frozen pipes and mold.

Prepare for Taxes

tax foreclosure

If you own your home for between two and five years as your primary residence, you don’t need to pay taxes on the sale, but this is not the case with an inherited home. The only way you may be able to bypass tax is to live in the inherited home for at least two years. Scenarios with more than one heir can become complicated, so inherited houses are usually sold immediately after the death of a relative. 

Fortunately, as someone inheriting a property, you are subject to a different tax structure. Taxes are typically calculated using the home’s purchase price plus any improvements made. But an inherited home’s taxes are based on the fair market value when the owner died. In other words, if the property has gone up in value since their death, the heirs don’t need to pay taxes on the increased value.

Don’t Start Renovations Until You Know it’s Worth It

Some choose to do some gentle home renovations on a home before putting it on the market to maximize the sale, and this is a good idea if you can do so quickly to minimize the costs associated with holding onto the home. However, if you plan to do this, make sure you speak to an experienced realtor or have the home appraised before you do so.

If you know for sure that your property will earn back what you spend on it, and more, then your time and money will be well spent. However, you may find after talking to your realtor and/or appraiser that it will be best for you to put the property on the market as-is.

Consider Selling to a Cash Home Buying Company

If you need to move quickly to sell the home, the best thing to do will be to sell directly to a cash home buying company. This will ensure you sell the home and save money on costs associated with selling the home, such as realtor fees, maintenance fees, and so on. Many will help guide you through the process and you can complete the house sale in just days or weeks, instead of months, as with a traditional sale.

When it comes to selling the property of a loved one, emotions can run high and it can be difficult to focus on money and logistics. That’s why we are here to help. We are Massachusetts cash home buyers and licensed real estate agents and make the process of selling your loved one’s home as easy as possible.

For more information, get in touch with us via e-mail or give us a call at 781-309-7085.

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