As our parents are living longer, well into their 80’s and 90’s, far too many older adults have memory issues included several types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Other situation where no help from our parents is available is the passing of both parents and one child designated as the personal representative of the estate or executor of the estate. In both situations, you as the child must make all decisions about the sale of the home with no help from the owner of the home … your mom or dad.
Always Consult the Professionals
It is important to consult professionals who will guide you through the process of probate and other issues affecting the sale of the home you are inheriting. To complicate matters, often there are siblings who will be included in this inheritance and not all are on the same page. I’ve seen so many cases where the child designated as the personal representative of the estate has been entrusted to make all decisions for the liquidation of an estate with siblings and their partners offering advice and in some cases some mistrust of the of the intentions of the executor of the estate.
Therefore, I would first recommend finding an elder law attorney or counsel that specializes in estate probate. In some cases this is not possible due to the minimal proceeds from an estate. I will discuss that in a moment. Assuming the amount of the property and estate is somewhat substantial, have a third party attorney can keep all members of the family on the same page with decisions directed from the professional. There are issues of taxes as well as complying with the laws affecting the location of the property in question. A mistake in this area can be costly and upsetting to all family members who are involved in the inheritance.
Once an attorney is on board, they will direct the personal representative as to what steps to take and when to take them. In regards to a home that must be sold, I would advise calling a Senior Real Estate Specialist to meet at the property and offer a game plan. They will provide comparables so that you will have a choice of fixing up or selling as is. As I always recommend, no matter what the condition, repair any major defects, especially basement issues. If you try to sell a property with a major defect, plan on a substantial drop in price, up to 60%! That is a huge discount when the repair may only cost 2-3% of the sale price. The Realtor will also offer choices as to the different price levels you can expect based on the repairs done or not done.
Now that you have an attorney directing you as well as a Realtor game plan and price, you can then begin the marketing of the home. Make sure all of your siblings are involved in the meetings with the attorney and Realtor so that they are getting the facts correctly and right from the proper source. That way there is no misunderstandings or distrust when decisions are made.
When not having parents to help with decisions, it is all up to you, the personal rep/executor. Do not procrastinate! I have seen properties vacant for years when the home could have sold or rented bringing income for investment. Waiting too long can also be costly as the home deteriorates and is open for pipes freezing, vandalism and other negative events.
In summary, find an attorney specializing in probate/estate liquidation. Obtain a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) to provide information you will need. Consult downsizing companies and get an estate for packing, sorting, estate sales, and moving. They can be your best partner when downsizing a home with so much personal property. If you gather all information through professionals that deal with all of these issues on a daily basis, you will obtain peace of mind as well as a successful closure to the estate.
When the cost of the home is to the point of very little assets available, you can consider donation, rental, or just flat out selling to a cash rehabber for a low price but will get in return peace of mind. Consulting with a Real Estate Professional is a great way to get the right information allowing you to make the right decision.
Selling a home when your parent is alive but not medically competent is one of the most difficult jobs one can get. There is some guessing as to what mom or dad would have wanted, plus differing opinions from those in the family . Know that you are doing your best and your intentions are in the right place. Try not to give into guilt feelings for doing what must be done. In the end, you know that mom or dad would want you to do what is best for them, or best for the siblings in the family. Remember that you were chosen as the personal representative because your parents saw something in you that made their decision of who should handle the estate very easy and simple. You were chosen because you get things done, are organized and will always do the right thing for the remaining family. That is a blessing on many levels from your parents and your family.