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Selling Mom’s House

When your parents pass away, life is difficult enough.  The last thing you want is to be stuck paying the mortgage on their house or risk foreclosure.  It is quite common to want to sell the home as soon as possible.  However, as many have found out the hard way, it’s not exactly as simple as signing a contract.

From time to time I will see a real estate contract that the children of a deceased parent have signed to sell that parent’s home.  Those children can often either point to a Will showing that they are inheriting the home or the Tennessee intestacy laws state that they are inheriting the home.  Either way, it seems clear that those children should have the power to sell the home.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

The best case scenario is that probate on the decedent’s estate is complete and those who have inherited the house can sell it.  But I’m not talking about that situation.  I’m talking about the situation when probate has not been started or when probate is not complete.  Although the process for selling a home in those situations is not always identical, there are some common patterns.  For instance, it is quite likely that you will need to get court approval to sell the home if probate has begun.  Or, if you have not begun probate, you will probably have to open probate and then get approval from the court to sell.  You can almost guarantee that we will need consent from the Tennessee Department of Revenue to sell the home and a release of potential claims from the Bureau of TennCare.  If probate has not been completed, the best case scenario is that you can close on the home during the four month creditor’s period in probate and closing agent will hold your proceeds in escrow until the completion of the creditor’s period.

As you’re probably realizing, this can quickly become a complicated process.   Also, I would not be doing my job if I did not mention that a Trust can avoid this.  If your property is held in a Trust, even a Revocable Living Trust, it will pass outside of probate because it does not belong to the decedent, it belongs to the Trust.  This simplifies the selling process immensely.  However, whether you have a Trust, a Will, or no Will at all, we are equipped to walk you through this process.

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