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What Happens To Mom’s House When She Dies?

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Mom's house in Florida
Will Mom’s house in Florida need to be sold? Who handles that?

So, what happens to Mom’s house in Florida when she dies?

It’s not uncommon for a parent to leave her home to her children. At the parent’s death, questions often arise concerning how long the children have before they must sell it or change the deed. What if one sibling wants to live in the home for a while, before it is sold? What happens if there’s a mortgage on the house?

nj.com’s article on this subject asks, “Mom died and left us her home. What do we have to do next?” According to the article, the executor (Personal Representative, in Florida) is tasked with gathering the assets, paying the debts and taxes (if any) and then distributing the assets, in accordance with the parent’s Will.

If the home was in the parent’s name alone, in most states, that makes the property a probate asset that’s passed according to the Will. In Florida, things get more complicated due to our Homestead laws, but the home will still be subject to the probate process. The Will usually gives the Personal Representative the discretion to sell the house and other property and then make the distributions.

There also may be a specific provision in the Will covering the home.

There’s generally no specific timeline as to when the property has to be transferred. However, the Personal Representative is required to act prudently and in a reasonably timely manner. In Florida, a vacant house that’s not monitored and maintained can lose value quickly due to our humidity, bugs, mold, and homeless trespassers.

In most situations, the Mom’s house will likely be sold. It’s the Personal Representative’s responsibility (after consulting with the probate attorney) to hire a real estate agent; arrange for estate sales, cleaning, and maintenance; and pay the bills associated with the home – including the mortgage, electricity, water – until a buyer is found. If Mom didn’t plan ahead and leave plenty of cash or liquid investments in her estate, the Personal Representative won’t be able to pay those bills, and her children will have to pay for those expenses – and the thousands of dollars in legal fees for the probate – out of their own pockets. Hopefully they can be reimbursed after the home is sold.

If one of the siblings wants to live there, and it’s agreeable to everyone, make sure that she doesn’t refuse to leave, when it comes time to sell. Keep in mind that landlord-tenant laws protect a tenant and may create an issue. The Personal Representative may want to talk with an attorney to determine what steps are necessary to protect against the tenant refusing to leave.

Reference: nj.com (April 1, 2019) “Mom died and left us her home. What do we have to do next?”