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What Happens to a Home When the Owner Dies Without a Will?

When a person dies without a Will, the process of bequeathing their assets can be complicated. The estate is divided based on rules of intestacy. In most cases, this means the closest living relatives to the deceased receive a proportion of the estate.

If a property owner in your family dies without a Will, you might have to take control of the process. We’ve put together a brief guide to the process involved to get you started.

Who can inherit property?

In the vast majority of cases, only close relatives of the deceased stand to inherit property from an intestate person. There are certain individuals who wouldn’t normally have an automatic right to inherit:

  • Partners who aren’t married or in a civil partnership
  • Carers
  • Friends
  • “In-laws” or relations through marriage

Why marriage is so important

What happens to a home when the owner dies without a Will?

In the UK, a spouse always takes priority in terms of inheritance. In fact, if you want your spouse or civil partner to receive everything when you pass away, you don’t need a Will. This is the legal default. Everything passes to a spouse if there isn’t a Will. And this rule applies if the partners were separated at the time of death.

Even children and grandchildren have no immediate right to inherit property from an intestate person. A legal process will decide where the assets should go. It might be the case that the estate is split up and shared between several close relatives if there isn’t a surviving spouse.

Property ownership

In the UK, couples buy property in two ways: joint tenancy and tenants in common. If the home of the deceased is co-owned with a spouse as a joint tenancy, the entire property automatically passes to the surviving spouse.

Tenants in common means each person owns a share of the property as if it were a separate entity. This means the deceased’s share won’t automatically transfer to the surviving partner. In most cases, the share would become another asset in the deceased’s estate. And it would be subject to inheritance tax if the total value of the estate exceeded HMRC’s threshold.

Do children automatically inherit intestate assets?

What happens to a home when the owner dies without a Will?

The simple answer is it depends. A child can inherit an estate if there’s no surviving spouse. If there’s a surviving parent, however, the child of the deceased would only inherit if the estate is worth more than £250,000.

If there’s more than one child, the estate would usually be split equally among all the siblings. When children inherit property after the passing of a parent, a court might order that the house is kept in trust until the children of the deceased become adults. After all, it might be a family home.

In most cases, children inherit property and assets if there are no surviving parents. And this includes adopted children, too. But the actual transfer of assets doesn’t usually happen until the beneficiary turns 18.

What if there are no living relatives?

If there are no living relatives at the time of the person’s death, the estate doesn’t pass to close friends or carers. The “bona vacantia” law states that the estate passes to the Crown. The government then decides what to do with the estate.

If you’ve inherited property, you might want to sell the house as quickly as possible. After all, you’re responsible for maintenance, council tax, mortgage repayments and any tenants in the property until the property changes hands. Flying Homes buys houses for up to 100% of their market value. And in many cases, completion occurs within a month of the initial offer.

A Guide to Property Inheritance

Dealing with property and legal issues is the last thing anyone wants to do after the death of a loved one. But it’s something that has to be done eventually. Property inheritance, in particular, is often a complex issue to deal with, so it’s important to know how to approach it from the outset.

If you’re facing the difficult issue of dealing with property inheritance, you need answers to a few crucial questions.

There isn’t a will. What do I do?

If a close relative passed away without a Will, you could apply for a grant of representation. This gives you access you the deceased’s financial affairs, bank accounts, and assets.

What does the law say about property inheritance?

Property inheritance tax

Inheritance tax applies to estates worth over £325,000. If the deceased’s estate is worth more than this, the tax is payable at a rate of 40% on anything over this threshold. This tax doesn’t apply if the deceased was your spouse or civil partner, however.

What should be my first steps?

The first thing to do in relation to inherited property is to check whether or not there’s an outstanding mortgage. If there is, you should be able to negotiate a brief delay in repayments. This gives you time to mourn and decide what you’re going to do with the property.

If you’re the administrator of the estate or the executor of the Will, you’ll need to declare the full value of the estate to HMRC within a year of the deceased’s passing.

If the property is standing empty, you should buy unoccupied insurance immediately. This should cover damage to the property, vandalism, and theft. The terms of your policy may require you to check the condition of the home every week or so.

What can I do with my inherited property?

Move in

If you’ve inherited the property alone, there’s nothing stopping you from moving in immediately after probate is complete. But you’ll need to take on the mortgage repayments, and you’ll be liable for any debts attached to the property.

Sell the property

Property inheritance: Selling a house

You may already own your own home — in which case owning a second may not be appealing. You may not want to take on mortgage repayments. Or you might want to avoid maintaining and renting out the property. Whatever your reasons are, you might want to sell as quickly as possible.

If you’re in a hurry to raise funds or simply move on, selling to a national home buyer might be the best option. SellPropertyFastCash buys residential property for up to 100% of its market value. And because there’s no property chain or negotiations involved, you could have the proceeds in your bank account within a month.

If the inherited property increases in value between the death of the owner and the date of completion, you may be liable for capital gains tax.

Let the property

You have the option of letting your property for an additional income. But you’ll have to maintain the home and satisfy all the legal requirements of landlords in the UK. This may not be something you want to take on at this stressful time in your life.

And if you let your property, you’ll need to declare the income for tax purposes.

Property inheritance is always a tricky issue to manage, as it only ever occurs when a loved one passes away. Decide what you want to do with the home, and get the necessary advice from professionals as soon as possible.

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