What happens to property when someone dies?

What happens to property when someone dies?

One question that we frequently get asked is “What happens to a property when someone dies?”. Following a bereavement, there are a number of tasks that need to be considered and ensuring that a property is dealt with correctly is one of the many responsibilities involved in estate administration. Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is a difficult and emotional process; therefore, it’s important to understand what to do with the deceased’s property to avoid any further stress and anxiety.

This informative blog post looks at who is responsible for a property when an owner dies, the different types of ownership that need to be considered, and what could be involved in dealing with a property after death.

Who is responsible for dealing with the deceased’s property?

The Executor (if there is Will) or the Administrator (if there isn’t Will) is in charge of dealing with the deceased’s property. 
This means that if something goes wrong with the property after the owner passes away, they are liable for fixing it.
They are responsible for not only the property but also the complete estate administration process after someone passes away. 
When there is no Will, this entails carrying out the wishes expressed in the Will or distributing the estate according to the provisions of intestacy. 
Estate administration entails selling and transferring assets, completing tax forms, paying any Inheritance Tax owing, and much more, in addition to dealing with the property of deceased person
The role of an Executor or Administrator should not be underestimated, as they are financially and legally accountable for the estate’s proper distribution. 
Executors and Administrators are not required to accept the post and can decline if they so desire. 
It’s also totally acceptable for Executors or Administrators to seek expert assistance or designate someone to manage the estate on their behalf.

What are the different types of property ownership?

It’s crucial to figure out how the property was owned before dealing with it. It’s possible that the deceased held the property outright or that they co-owned it with someone else and simply had a share in it.

Depending on who owns the land, different criteria apply. If the objective is to transfer the property into the name of the beneficiary(s) and the dead was the sole owner, the Executor or Administrator can use an AS1 Land Registry form to transfer the property to the beneficiary(s). If the property was owned solely in the name of the deceased, a Grant of Probate would be required, giving the Executor or Administrator the legal authority to either transfer it to the beneficiary(s) or sell it. Find out more about probate and when it’s necessary.

It’s vital to determine if the property was held as beneficial joint tenants or tenants in common if it was co-owned. If the property is owned as joint tenants, it will pass directly to the co-owner regardless of the wishes in the Will or the regulations of intestacy. HM Land Registry often uses a DJP (death of a joint proprietor) form to register the death and alter the Title Deeds (Land Registry entries) to remove the deceased’s name.

If the property was owned as tenants in common, the deceased’s share would be considered part of their inheritance and dealt with according to their Will or intestacy procedures. If the estate is being bequeathed to the co-owner, a DJP form (as described above) will be required, as well as the limitation on the Title Deeds indicating that the property is held as tenants in common.

If the co-portion owner’s of the property is left to a beneficiary(ies) other than the co-owner, the co-owner must transfer the property to the new beneficiary(ies) on the Title Deeds. A Land Registry form known as a TR1 can be used for this.

If the property was co-owned (either as joint tenants or as tenants in common), a Grant of Probate is not required to deal with the deceased’s share. However, we always recommend obtaining a Grant of Probate so that there is evidence of what happened upon death, especially if the person who dies had a pre-deceased spouse and has to use the Transferable Nil Rate Band or Residential Nil Rate Band.

What could be involved when dealing with the property?

Organising specialist building insurance

Typically, when a property is left unoccupied for a number of consecutive days, restrictions and exclusions apply to the level of cover that is provided by standard home insurance. Policies differ between providers; whilst some impose restrictions after 60 days, others restrict their cover after 30 to 45 consecutive days. This response from insurance providers is due to an unoccupied property being at greater risk than one that is occupied.

At Kings Court Trust, we can source property insurance that covers the deceased’s property. In one case, we were appointed to take care of an estate which included a property that flooded shortly after we started the estate administration process; we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of the flooding and our property insurance covered the costs, leaving more money in the estate for the beneficiaries.

Notifying utility companies

Utility companies should be informed of a death as soon as possible. Whilst this may not seem like a priority, every utility company has their set processes to follow. Once contact has been made, delays to payment requests can be put in place and accounts can be frozen. The sooner a company is informed of the death, the quicker they can ensure that supplies will not be cut off due to missed payments.

It’s important to note that although the Executor or Administrator is responsible for the administration of the estate, outstanding bills and debts to utility companies are normally paid from the deceased’s estate rather than from their own pockets.

Redirection of mail

As there may be information sent to the deceased’s address that requires immediate attention, it is recommended to act on this step as soon as possible. This can be done by filling in a special circumstances form and taking it to your local Post Office or applying by post. Unfortunately, this can’t be completed online and a death certificate will be required. There can be a delay while redirection is put in place, so don’t worry if mail continues to arrive at the property for a short period of time.

Property clearance

If the property is to be sold, you will need to ensure that it has been completely cleared of all furniture and personal items prior to completion. Sometimes, this includes white goods and furnishings such as curtains. As this can be a very emotional and daunting task for those bereaving, professional companies can be instructed to clear the deceased’s possessions once documents and personal items have been retained by the family.

In addition to handling the above tasks, our partner Kings Court Trust can assist with additional property services as part of the estate administration. These tasks include:

Evicting tenantsProperty and/or garden maintenanceRepairing damageRe-decoration and cosmetic enhancementsProperty guardian (to live in vulnerable properties)RICS valuationsLock changesCleaning

If you have any questions about dealing with property as part of the estate administration process, get free guidance and advice from our Client Services Team by calling 0800 368 9770