Selling a Home on Behalf of Your Aging or Deceased Parent

Owning a home is a major responsibility – and whether due to critical health issues, cognitive decline, or incapacitation, many seniors aren’t up to the task.

This can be difficult for an adult child of an aging parent to see, but it’s a reality that many people end up having to face. In some cases, it will fall to you to care for, and perhaps even take on the responsibilities of selling, an aging parent’s home.

This can be a major undertaking, and you may be worried about being up to the challenge – particularly if you find yourself saddled with the responsibility unexpectedly. Here are three things worth asking yourself as you face the possibility of having to sell a home on behalf of your aging, infirm, or deceased parent…

Note: The Real Group RE team is not dispensing legal advice. We are not now, nor have we ever claimed to be, attorneys, and no one should act or decline to act based on the information contained in this post without first consulting with a qualified legal professional.

Do You Have the Authority to Sell the Home?

When you’re looking to act on behalf of your parent or guardian, one of the most important things to consider is if you actually have the authority to sell their home. Remember, only the legal owner of a property may actually transfer it to a buyer; even if you’re acting as a caregiver for an aging or infirm parent, if you don’t have legal authority to act on their behalf, you do not have the ability to sell their home.

For that reason, it’s important to understand the mechanisms that may allow you to act in your parent’s stead. If they’re infirm, incompetent, or otherwise unable to handle their own affairs, you will need to be in a legal position to act on their behalf in order to carry out a real estate transaction.

The best way to ensure that you’re cleared to act is to ensure that you are designated as your parent’s power of attorney, with the authority to sell their home. Remember, though, that there may be complications; for instance, if the power of attorney documentation is too old (or too recent), the title company may question it, and seek confirmation from your parent.

If no power of attorney has been named, you will likely need to apply for guardianship in order to sell the home. This can be a costly and time-intensive process, and it will require you to work closely with the courts on essentially all aspects of the sale.

Things may be a little more clear-cut if your parent has already passed – assuming that he or she took steps to set up a comprehensive estate plan. In this case, if your parent has named you as an executor or administrator of their estate in their will, the courts will generally grant you permission to sell their property. Similarly, if your loved one named you as a successor trustee via a durable living trust, and named the property as a trust asset, then responsibility for their property will likely transfer to you immediately after their passing.

In all cases, it’s important to remember that complications can arise at any time. You may wish to solicit the assistance of a qualified legal professional to help guide you through the ins and outs of power of attorney, wills and trusts, and other such matters.

Do You Have All the Necessary Information?

As you consider whether or not you’re able to sell your parent’s home on their behalf, it’s also important to take stock of all the information and documentation you have on hand for them.

Remember, there are a lot of important agreements, contracts, and paperwork tied up in a home. You may need to consult with your parent’s estate or elder law attorney in order to locate all of their relevant estate planning documents.

The information you will need in order to successfully sell your parent’s home goes far beyond a will, and may also include:

  • Loan information from your parent’s bank/mortgage lender
  • Title report
  • Recorded deed
  • Information on any other liens against the property

At the same time, don’t forget that there are other items you may also be responsible for, whether you’re acting as a caregiver or attempting to handle a real estate transaction on your parent’s behalf. These include handling utilities (i.e., canceling non-essentials, and maintaining others until the home is in escrow), home insurance, and, in some cases, being able to access and possibly make payments from a parent’s checking/savings accounts.

Do You Have the Right Team in Place?

It’s important to realize that selling a home can be a difficult process, even under the best of circumstances. It’s a hard task to tackle alone – and when you’re trying to sell a home in the midst of trying times, having the right help by your side becomes even more important.

For instance, an attorney will be an invaluable partner throughout this process. In most cases, it will be absolutely essential to consult with your parent’s wills and estate attorney, as this person will be able to help you locate and understand your parent’s estate documents. A legal professional with knowledge of your family’s affairs can also help with other tasks, such as reviewing titles and contracts and mediating interactions between yourself and any other relevant parties, such as the bank or mortgage lender associated with your parent’s property.

If your parent did not have an attorney for these matters, you may need to retain one on your own – legal guidance in situations like this is just that important, particularly if you end up having to file for legal guardianship or navigate a tricky probate process.

Another vital partner to have on hand? A trusted real estate broker, of course! A licensed, experienced broker can help you truly understand what it takes to sell your parent’s property, giving you guidance on key subjects like:

  • The market value of the home
  • Neighborhood conditions or market stats that could impact your sale
  • Staging, photography, and other “marketing” concepts
  • Whether it makes more sense for you to sell the property, or turn it into a rental
  • The possible timeline of the real estate process, from start to finish

Your real estate professional can also assist with some of the day-to-day of selling a home, if you’re unable to do so. For instance, plenty of children live far enough away from their parents that coming back into town all the time is just unfeasible. In cases like this, your real estate agent can help out by being present for all inspections and appraisals, for example.

Your real estate pro may also be able to refer you to service providers to help out with the selling process, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area where your parent’s home is located. Your trusted agent may be able to connect you with quality stagers, inspectors, contractors, real estate attorneys, and other qualified home professionals, saving you from having to research and hire a team all on your own.

Have any more questions about what it may take to sell a home on behalf of a loved one? Curious about the Chicago marketplace, or our unique approach to the real estate process? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to keep the conversation going!

Are you thinking about selling your home?

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