The Probate (Inherited Home) Sale Process

When a loved one dies, a typical New Jersey estate consists of a home, a few bank accounts, an IRA or 401(k), a vehicle, and all of the loved ones tangible personal property. For many people, the biggest asset they own is their home, and that homes sale can pose the biggest challenge for the executor or administrator of an estate.

The New Jersey Probate team has been set up to make the process of selling an inherited home as smooth a transition as possible. We are a one stop shop to find Realtors, Attorney’s, Financial Planners, Handy Men, Cleaning Crews and Estate Liquidation Experts near your inherited New Jersey home or property.

The list below has been prepared to break down the Inherited Home Sale Process and offer suggestions to the executor or administrator of the estate. From experience we know the house is usually the last thing that needs to be handled, but we also know it is the most complicated. We are here to help through the whole process!

Identifying the Executor, Executrix, or Administrator

The first thing to be addressed in selling a house left by a deceased family member is identifying who has the legal responsibility to handle the transaction. If the owner left a Will, the Executor is the authorized person. If the house is in a Trust, the Trustee is the authorized person. If there is no Will or Trust, someone must step forward and take responsibility.

Without a Will, the authorized person is the person who files a petition to open up a probate estate, volunteers to act as the Administrator of the Estate, and obtains Letters Testamentary (authority from the Court) to handle the affairs of the Estate. Even with a Will, the named Executor only has the authority to act after the Probate Estate is opened and Letters Testamentary are issued. Third parties (like banks and other people) will not communicate with a person who does not have clear authority to act for the deceased person (the Estate).

There may be other alternatives to opening up a Probate Estate, but the alternatives depend on the specific and unique facts and circumstances and the ability of the family to get along, act in concert, and coordinate their efforts. Alternatives can be explored with an experienced attorney. Typically, however, the Trustee, the Executor (if there is a Will) or the Administrator (if there is no Will) acting with Letters Testamentary will handle the sale of the house.

Time Is of the Essence

Insurance companies often do not want to insure empty homes. Most insurers expect to be notified of the owner’s death and the homes vacancy within 30 days of their passing and the cost to insure a vacant home can be 3-5 times as expensive as a typical home owner’s insurance policy.

To combat this, the heirs have the option of renting out the house or allowing a family member to move in until the home is sold. More often than not, an executor, administrator or trustee has no interest in handling both their current duties and that of a landlord. That said, the rental option rarely works. Dealing with a family member until the inherited home is sold is a more viable option, but other issues often arise that add complication to the task of handling the Estate. What happens if the executor is ready to sell, but the family member has nowhere to go? Or worse yet, what if the family member refuse to move out? All of these circumstances must be considered. Relying on the New Jersey Probate team for help and advice is 100% your best option.

Requirements for Title Insurance

Whenever real property is sold, buyers will require title insurance. When the owner of the house has died, the requirement for title insurance is even more important, as there are potential claimants of the Estate, heirs or other interested parties who have or may have an interest in the house. Those estate issues will be handled through the administration of the Probate Estate, but title insurance is still required, and those estate issues will need to be addressed satisfactorily to induce the title insurer to issue the title insurance policy.

With the Probate Estate, there are notices that must be sent to known creditors and known heirs as well as notice to be published in the paper for unknown creditors and unknown heirs. These notices are followed by a 6-month claims period (which can be shortened by the mailing of actual notices to specific creditors and heirs). Even while the claims period is still pending, real estate can be sold, though distribution of the net proceeds is usually withheld until the claims period ends.

All of the usual considerations in the sale of real estate apply equally to the sale of real estate when the owner is deceased. Other than the title issues related to the death of the owner, there may be title issues related to encroachments, easements, mortgages and other encumbrances, and even environmental concerns.

Identifying Property Value

One major issue that can arise in regard to the sale of the home of a deceased loved one is determining the value of the inherited home. Of course, your Daunno Realty Probate Agent can help in regard to valuing the house with a Free Comparative Market Analysis; however, heirs and family members may have expectations that are different than the opinion of your Daunno Agent. Often times those expectations are unrealistic, but they should not be dismissed.

Maintaining good communication with the family and heirs can do a lot to alleviate the problem of dashed expectations and second guessing. In our experience, the lack of communication causes far more problems than candid and full communication. It is recommended that the Executor send a written copy of your Daunno Realty Comparative Market Analysis to all of the heirs immediately after receipt. If the heirs are not happy with the findings in the CMA, a more formal appraisal can also be obtained, but it will cost the estate money. Should you want to precede with a more formal appraisal, please contact your Daunno Agent for a local referral.

In the end, if disagreement remains, then the executor must file a petition with the Probate Court judge and they can make the decision regarding value. The judge will most likely go with the opinion of the Daunno Realty agent, but presenting the issue to the judge takes the heat off of the Estate Representative. Once a court order is obtained allowing the property to be sold within the parameters of the opinion of the real estate professional, the matter is resolved.

Potential “Short Sale” Situation

A common situation over the last 10 years is real property with a mortgage that exceeds the value of the property. This situation can pose a dilemma for an Estate. If the real property has been left to specific individuals, the specific individuals may not want the property. They can disclaim their interest in the property to avoid taking title to property that is “underwater”; however, the Estate as a whole does not have that luxury. If there are other assets in the Estate, a mortgage lender has the right to file a claim for any short fall between the value of the property and the mortgage. The lender can also foreclose on the mortgage. These issues can be complex and difficult to address and will require the help of an experienced attorney to sort through. Luckily for you, the New Jersey Probate Team has been working with these experience attorneys’ for the last 10 years and will happily refer them your way!

Maximizing Property Value

Have you ruled out the idea of selling the inherited home to an investor or cash buyer and decided to attempt to get the most money possible for the home? Maximizing the value of the property will usually require some repair prior to putting the home on the market. We would also recommend a thorough decluttering. For this, we refer you to our team page and both our Estate Sale and Junk Removal partners who can help with this tedious task. We would also strongly recommend that you have a trained Daunno Realty Probate Agent come take a look! Our agents can make recommendations with regard to strongly advised repairs, de-cluttering ideas, and staging tips designed to get you the most $$$ for your inherited home.

Below we have listed the 5 most important TIPs to maximizing the value of your inherited home!

Tip 1: Clean up the Lawn, Trim the Bushes, Remove the Leaves
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause the home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming the jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim the lawn and shape the hedges. The homes curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing the estates budget.

Tip 2: Cleanliness counts
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, while you may not be able to make every update, make the interior of your inherited home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if the home was cleaned regularly, there are nooks and crannies that may have been missed or overlooked. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make the home sparkle.

Tip 3: Paint, Paint, Paint

One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter's tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!

Tip 4: Visually Increase Your Home's Square Footage – Declutter!
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn't the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in the house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff left in your inherited home, the more cramped it will feel.

Tip 5: Any Kitchen or Bathroom Update Equals Added Value

A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look. You don't have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe in the kitchen. For maximizing your home's value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.


While a home is often the most valuable asset of an Estate, the home can also pose some of the most significant challenges for an executor or administrator. By making good use of the resources available through the New Jersey Probate Team, we can help sell the home with an open, systematic and deliberate approach. With 10 years of experience in Inherited Home Sales, no obstacle is insurmountable. Our team is trained to help YOU focus on the end game, which is to get the house sold and to distribute the net assets to the people who are entitled to them!

Call us today at 732-396-3995 with questions or for a free consultation!