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How Probate Handles Your Family Home

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As the executor of a will, your main responsibility is to carry out the wishes of the deceased. Among those duties are the filing of the will with the probate court and to distribute the property as specified in the will. If you are the executor of your only living parent's will, you may find yourself with the task of dividing the family home among your siblings. The family home can carry a lot of emotional weight, so read on for how probate handles the disposition of your family home.

The Estate

With many families, the real estate holdings make up the bulk of the estate. Cash, bank accounts, investments accounts and vehicles can all be part of the deceased's estate, and are far more easily divided and distributed among siblings. For all property that has not been addressed with a "payable on death" designation, or included and addressed with a trust account, probate must be carried out. For practical purposes, this gives the executor some time to decide on how to distribute the property, if the will simply states that the estate be divided among the siblings.

During Probate

A primary duty of the executor is to ensure that the estate, or the property, is kept safe and continues to be paid for. This will commonly include these tasks:

  • Keep any needed utilities on and pay utility bills.
  • Keep the property taxes up to date.
  • Pay any mortgage payments or home equity payments.
  • Ensure that any storage, condominium or homeowners' association fees are paid.
  • Keep the homeowners' and vehicle insurance paid.
  • Complete any needed repairs to the home.

After Probate

Once the will has cleared probate court, the task of dispersing the estate is undertaken. The disposition of not only the family home, but all property, should be preceded by a professional appraisal. The value of the home must be taken into consideration when dividing other property.

The division of the family home may be accomplished using these 3 methods:

  1. Divide any proceeds of the home after its sale.
  2. Allow one sibling to buy out the other siblings' share of the home.
  3. Disperse other property of equal value to a sibling instead of the home. For example, if one sibling has no interest in the family home, they may be satisfied with cash from an investment account instead.

While the division of the estate is not necessarily an issue for the courts, if there are disagreements you may need to seek litigation to settle the dispute. Court is to be avoided if at all possible, since litigation is costly and time-consuming. Seek the advice of an estate attorney to assist you during this emotional and stressful time. Click here for more information.