When someone dies, many folks are confused about who owns the house during probate, right after the death. Technically, the heirs own it immediately upon death, subject to debts and taxes of the estate. But, sometimes is not clear who the heirs are. The probate process decides who exactly are the heirs and places an executor in charge to sort out all those debts and taxes.
So, the heirs own the house, but if it is not clear who the heirs are, then you kind of need to wait to see who really owns it. Understandably, this is a bit confusing. We’ll cover common questions on who owns the property during probate.
Can multiple heirs inherit a house?
Yes, multiple heirs can own the house either by will or deed. As you can imagine, having more than one heir inherit the house leads to a lot of problems.
The most common problem is when one heir lives in the house and won’t leave. Or maybe heirs can’t agree on how to manage the property. And, sometimes one heir wants to keep the property and the rest want to sell it. They might even disagree on how to buy each other out.
These conflicts often lead to a probate sale so everyone can take their share and walk away.
Can the executor sell a house that is in probate?
Does the executor have the power and authority to sell a house that is in probate? Yes, absolutely. Besides, selling the house is often necessary. Maybe the will instructs the executor to sell the house and divide the proceeds among the heirs. Sometimes the house has to be sold to cover the estate bills/taxes that the bank accounts can’t cover. Or, as mentioned above, the house has to be sold because multiple heirs can’t agree on what to do with the property.
Do all heirs have to agree to sell property?
Preferably, all the heirs should agree; that would make life easier! But they don’t necessarily have to agree.
If there is a court-appointed executor, then executor can make the impartial decision (if it’s a professional executor and not a family member). If the executor is a family member or one of the heirs, then the decision isn’t really impartial and there is potential for drama.
If multiple heirs are on the deed, then the house is technically not part of probate. If heirs are in conflict about the deed, then there will be expensive court proceedings to either bring the property back into the estate so the executor can decide, or a judicial partition where a judge decides. By the time these expensive court proceedings are over, there might not be much profit.
Naming multiple heirs on a deed is a variant of what we call the “beneficiary problem.”
We get these questions a lot, so hopefully this helps clear things up for our callers and listeners! To learn more about the ins and outs of probate, check out my book, “How Probate Works,” available on Amazon.
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