When a loved one dies all we can think about initially is our grief, but as time goes on we also have to deal with a significant amount of paperwork regarding their passing. One aspect of dealing with a deceased’s estate that confuses many people is what happens to their homeowners insurance.
Today, we’ll guide you through what happens to homeowners insurance when the owner of the property passes away, so you know what next steps you need to take.
Homeowners insurance covers a home by insuring its structure. It covers things like fires, vandalism, accidents, trees falling, and other natural disasters. For this reason, it’s absolutely crucial to keep it in place throughout the probate process.
Whether the deceased spouse was the only person named on the policy, or both spouses were named on the policy, the policy in its current form ceases to be valid. Most insurance companies will give you 30 days of grace after a policyholder passes away, but the sooner you notify them the better.
Except in exceptional circumstances, the ownership of the property will pass to the surviving spouse, so it should be straightforward to get the insurance company to either remove the deceased from the policy or put the policy in the surviving spouse’s name.
Most insurance companies ask you to notify them of the policy owner’s passing within 30 days, backed up by a copy of the death certificate. What happens next depends on the insurance company and how long the probate process is likely to take. Here are some of the likely options:
- They’ll extend the policy for a defined period so alternative arrangements can be made
- They’ll set up a temporary policy
- They’ll require you to get a policy in your name
- They’ll ask you to transfer the policy into your name
Since the probate process can take several months to conclude, you should call the insurance company to explore your options. Most insurance companies can set up some kind of temporary insurance for you until the property can be transferred into your name or sold.
In some cases, you’ll need to transfer the insurance into your name to maintain it, while others will keep it in the deceased’s name for a short period.
If you get a temporary option, make sure you are clear on the terms around how long it lasts, what it covers the home for, and whether the home being vacant (if it will be) has the potential to cause issues should you have to claim.
Insurance companies aren’t keen on homes being vacant, and so leaving a house empty without telling them may mean the policy is canceled and any claim rebuffed, should you need to make one.
Where possible, it’s best to live (or find a trustworthy person who can) in the property until probate is complete and the property sold, both to keep the insurance policy in place and to prevent squatters, damage, and theft.
If that’s not possible, you’ll need to get an Unoccupied Property Policy, which the current home insurance provider may be able to put in place for you. These policies are more expensive because more can go wrong when there’s no one there to look after the property, they will cover you in the event that something goes wrong. It’s often easy to get these policies for a shorter period, such as 3-6 months, so you shouldn’t need to buy a full year.
If no surviving spouse is going to take over the policy (or get a new one) and live in the property full-time, the executor should ensure the estate continues paying for the insurance policy until the home is awarded to an heir or sold. If this is not possible for any reason, but you are the beneficiary of the property, it will be in your best interests to pay for the insurance to ensure it is covered in case of a disaster.
Once the homeownership is transferred to a beneficiary of the estate or a new owner, they are responsible for insuring the home. In most cases, they will get a whole new policy.
Once the probate process is complete, the home will either become the home of one of the estate’s beneficiaries or will be ready to be sold. Selling a home after probate “meet friends” can be a daunting prospect, and we’ve got some great resources to help you make the sale go more smoothly:
- How long does probate take in Massachusetts?
- Selling a House After Probate in Massachusetts
- How to Sell a House in Massachusetts During Probate
Many people find the process of selling a deceased loved one’s home stressful – their homes often need repairs to make them sellable and the decor is often outdated. We buy homes in Massachusetts in “as-is” condition, which means you don’t need to do any repairs or redecorating to sell the home to us.
Selling your home to us is a private sale, meaning you can avoid realtor fees and we can complete the sale in as little as 2-3 weeks. You also don’t need to worry about emptying the home if you’ve discovered your loved one was holding onto things they shouldn’t have. We’ve helped numerous families by purchasing a home literally as-is, allowing them to just take the furniture and mementos they want, leaving the clutter behind.
The process of selling to us is simple; just fill in our contact form and tell us the essential details about the property, and then we’ll get back to you with our best cash offer. You’re under no obligation to accept, but if you do, we’ll move forward with the sale and can close in as little as 2 weeks. To find out more about the process or to get your no-obligation cash offer, click here.