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Selling a home after a loved one dies

A parent or other family member has passed away. They left their home to you or, if they didn't have a will, the court has determined that you get the home. You don't need or want it, so you're going to sell it.

You may also find yourself in this situation if you're the executor of the estate and have the responsibility of selling the home. The important thing is to ensure you have the authority to sell it.

Even if you've sold a home before, this will be different. It's wise to consult with your loved one's estate planning attorney and a reliable real estate agent. It's also smart to have an experienced real estate attorney on your team.

Remember that the estate will need to continue to pay bills related to the home for a time. That includes the mortgage, if there is one, at least some of the utilities (which you'll need to keep on as you show the home to prospective buyers). Keep on landscapers and others who help maintain the home.

As soon as possible, change the locks. You can't know for certain who has access to the home, and you need to keep control over the property and everything in it.

Submit a change of address for the mail so it doesn't pile up and advertise that the house is empty. You also want bills and other important notices to go to the right person -- probably the executor.

You'll need to collect all documents related to the home, mortgage and insurance. This could take some searching if your loved one wasn't particularly organized.

Likely, you'll want to empty out the home. How you do this will depend on whether your loved one left specific items to heirs and beneficiaries or designated that they should be sold off, with the proceeds becoming part of the estate.

Your real estate agent and/or your attorney can recommend an estate auction house. However, your realtor will probably want to leave some furniture, art and other belongings in the home while they're showing it. Be sure to remove any personal documents and valuables to prevent them from being stolen.

There's no such thing as too much good advice when you're taking on an important responsibility like this. It may cost you a little more upfront, but you could end up saving considerable money and problems in the end.

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