The Inheritance Guide

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Managing a deceased persons property

After losing someone close the last thing you want to do is deal with the assets of that loved one. It often means searching for information and contacting various companies to discuss the person’s finances to understand what they have left behind.

When someone dies, a nominated individual (the deceased person’s ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’) must take responsibility for sorting out the deceased person’s money and estate. They need to pay the deceased person’s taxes and debts, and distribute his or her money and property in accordance with their wishes or their Will.

Here are some things to consider when you are faced with selling a lost relative’s property;

Insurance

There are two situations that you may experience here which depends on whether the deceased has a remaining living spouse or partner. If the a spouse or partner remains then the property will still be occupied and all that is needed here is to let your current insurer know that a person named on the policy has passed away.

In a case where there is no surviving civil partner/widow/widower, the property in most cases will become vacant. If this is the case the current insurers will need to be notified as soon as possible that the policy holder is deceased. The policy is no longer valid under this person’s name. Most building insurance policies impose vacancy restrictions, where a property cannot remain unoccupied for a period of time, this is often around 30 days. As the property is likely to be empty for longer than this, the insurer may impose policy endorsements such as insisting that the property is inspected regularly. Some insurance companies won’t extend cover, in this case you will need to look for an alternative insurer.

A vacant property is viewed as a high risk asset by insurance companies, this will inevitably mean that premiums will be higher, depending on the insurance company. However the main thing to stress here is that you are to advise the insurers that the property is vacant to ensure you are covered in the event of a claim.

Securing the property

This is pretty much standard procedure, however in an emotional situation things can get over looked. It may be advisable to change the locks so you know exactly who has access to the property. Installing an alarm if deemed necessary or ensuring that any current system is working correctly. In most situations it’s better to be safe than sorry, at the very least, make the property look secure.

It is advisable to remove all valuable or precious personal items from the property in case of break-ins. If you decide to use a company for clearance, they will quote on what is left in the property, to save confusion its best to remove any wanted items beforehand.

Property Condition

It’s important to remove any perishable items as soon as possible after the death and place in the refuse bins for collection. Fridges and freezers should be emptied and the doors left open to mitigate against unpleasant odours. If a property is left unoccupied for a significant period of time it will become dusty, attract insects and become run down. General maintenance of the property should be done so that it’s not obvious the property is vacant and to ensure you get the best price when selling. Leaving window dressings in place will help the property to look "lived in" and mitigate against vandalism.

Our main advice is keep on top of it and give the impression that someone is still living there.

Valuation of Property for the date of death

HMRC states that "For inheritance tax, the open market value of an asset is the price it might reasonably fetch if it was sold on the open market at the time of the transfer of that asset."

Countrywide advise to get a local estate agent to undertake a market appraisal, this is free and can be organised quickly and simply. You can decide to pay for a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors valuation (commonly known as RICS Date of Death or Probate Valuation). This is a market valuation from a professionally qualified surveyor based on comparable data and the structural integrity of the property.

You can of course also look at similar properties in the area and submit your own estimation, this does carry some risk. If the property sells for significantly more than the sum on the IHT Submission form you could be fined for not paying enough inheritance tax.

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