Inheriting a house is both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. If you play your cards right, the house can become the cornerstone of you and your family’s financial plan for the future. But if you make the wrong decisions, that very same house could become a huge liability. For this reason, it is essential that you consult with an Indianapolis probate lawyer to avoid common mistakes, and to make the decisions that will turn the inherited house into an asset.
Determining Ownership Can Be Complex
There are two ways you can inherit a house: by having it left to you in a will, or – under Indiana’s intestate laws – inheriting the house because it wasn’t included in any wills. If you were named as the new homeowner in the decedent’s will, you should consult the document, which may contain useful information about the house.
When you inherit a house from someone without a will, it is because you are the closest living family member to that person. If you are a child, parent, or a sibling to the deceased, it is likely that you will be splitting the estate with other heirs. The estate may include a variety of property, including a house, its contents, vehicles, and financial assets. In these situations, it is essential that you and the other heirs work with trusted legal professionals to help you justly divide the assets in the probate proceedings.
In some cases, which may arise from the application of a will or of the intestate laws, you may end up having to share ownership of the house with the other heirs. The joint or common ownership of a house rarely works in practice, and most heirs end up selling the house and splitting the proceeds because of how difficult jointly owning a home can be. If you and the other heirs intend to keep the house, you should consult with lawyers so that you each understand the full extent and limitations of your rights to the property.
What Should Be the First Steps Upon Inheriting a House?
Once it is determined that you are the owner of the house, your first concerns should be of a practical order:
- Gain possession of the keys from the executor or court-appointed representative of the estate, and changing locks if you believe the keys have been shared with other parties.
- Make an inventory of valuables in the house such as collectibles, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and antiques.
- Gather mail and forward it to the appropriate parties. You should also organize forwarding the mail at the local post office.
- Inspect the doors, windows, furnace, air conditioner, plumbing, and electrical systems in the house.
- If you will not live in the home, schedule regular visits to ensure there is no vandalism or damage. If you live far away from the home, you can hire a service to assist with regular house upkeep.
Don’t Let Your House Become a Liability
You should check that the person who owned the house was up-to-date on mortgage payments and real estate taxes. If the house has a tax or mortgage debt attached to it, you will become responsible for paying it off. Many heirs must sell the houses they inherit to pay off the debts incurred by the deceased. So before you make any financial plans based on inheriting the house, it is essential to make sure that your house is an asset as opposed to a liability.
Your house may also turn out to be a liability if you fail to insure it promptly. If the house gets damaged by a flood, fire, or a falling tree before you take out an insurance policy, you may be forced to mortgage the house to pay for repairs. As soon as you gain ownership to the house, you should protect yourself against accidents by fully insuring the home and its contents.
Call Hessler Law Today
To turn your inheritance of a home into a financial success story, you should retain a team of professionals to assist you. A financial planner, a real estate agent, an accountant, and an Indianapolis probate lawyer can help you make the most out of this opportunity. If you’ve inherited a house or other kind of property, call Hessler Law today at (317) 886-8800 for a free consultation about securing your ownership rights.