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I Want to Sell My Parent’s House, What do I do?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Losing a parent is never an easy experience. Even though we work as Idaho estate planning and probate lawyers, we have all lost loved ones and know what it's like to deal with the grief of such a loss. The stress associated with losing a parent can sometimes be magnified when a house is involved as part of their estate. Our goal as the premier Idaho estate planning law firm is to eliminate many of the stresses associated with probate, dealing with creditors, and transfers of estate property such as a home. We are confident that we can help you.

At the Racine law office our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys Work to determine what your specific needs are through the probate of your parents estate. We then work to meet those needs and to make sure that everything is taken care of in accordance with Idaho law. Our team consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys have earned the highest rankings possible based upon their experience, knowledge, abilities and ethics from the several notable legal rating services including AVVO, Martindale & Hubbell and Justia. More importantly, our team of attorneys have the skill and experience to help you especially when it comes to assisting you in selling your parents’ home after they have passed away.

Having assisted numerous clients in selling their parents home we are confident that we can help you too. The purpose of this article is to provide you with specific information you need to understand in order to properly sell your parents home. We have found that when it comes to selling a home from a probate estate, there are really three specific questions that need to be answered. The rest of this article will discuss these three questions and how they apply to your situation.

How Much Time has Gone by?

The first question is how much time has gone by since your parents passed away. We have found that the question involved in selling a parent's home usually comes up when an actual attempt to sell the home is being made. Often, a title company will let our clients know that they cannot sell the home until a probate has been completed. The reason for this is simple. When a person purchases a home, their name is placed on the deed or title to the home which acts as evidence that they are the owners of that home. When a person passes away, their name is not automatically removed from the deed. Rather, the recorded deed still shows the parent as the owner of the home.

So again, we are back to the question of how much time has gone by since your parents’ deaths. The reason this is an important question is because in Idaho a probate must be completed within three years of a person's death. If more than three years goes by then a probate can no longer be accomplished. Rather, the family would then be required to take some other legal action to transfer title in the home away from the parents who have passed away.

The most common scenario is that one parent died some time ago and the other parent just recently passed away and the family now wants to sell the home. When this happens, the family is able to overcome the three year probate deadline that normally applies and do a joint probate for both parents even though one of the parents passed away more than three years ago. Through a joint probate title to the home can be transferred by the personal representative. This could be done by selling the home through the probate process, or by transferring the home to the legal beneficiaries and allowing these beneficiaries to then sell the home.

If one of your parents is still alive, the situation is different. In this instance you have the option of completing a Summary Administration to transfer title of the home to the surviving spouse. Once this is done then the surviving spouse has the ability to list and sell the home on their own if they chose.

Is There a Written Last Will and Testament?

After determining how much time has gone by since your parent or parents have passed away and determining which type of probate process you can complete, the next question is whether there is a written last will and testament. The reason this is important is because it helps determine who the beneficiaries are of your parents Estates.

When a written last will and testament exists the will specifically lists who the beneficiaries of the estate are. In other words, the person who wrote the will has the ability to say who they want all their money, property, and assets to go to including their home. Most often, parents will leave the property in their estate to their spouse and if their spouse did not survive them then the estate assets are usually left in some way to their children. Whenever there is a valid written will, the courts in Idaho will do their best to carry out the intentions and stated wishes of the person who wrote the will.

When there is no written will, then the laws of intestacy apply. Under the laws of intestacy, beneficiaries are designated in a specific order. The spouse is the first beneficiary. If the spouse passed away, then the next line of beneficiaries are the children in equal amounts. If there are no children, then there are other relatives that become the listed and legal beneficiaries of the decedent's estate.

The reason all this is important because it specifically designates who the beneficiary is. The beneficiary of the estate is the person who will receive title to the home through the probate process. Once the title to the home has been transferred to this beneficiary, that individual that has the ability to list and sell the home if they choose to do so.

Are There Liens on the Home?

The final question that must be answered when it comes to selling your parents home is whether there are any liens or encumbrances that exist on the home. Often, a mortgage on the home base still exist. When this happens, the estate may be required to sell the home to satisfy the mortgage before any other assets from the estate can be transferred to the beneficiaries which most often are the children. There may be some options to transfer the home to the children and allow them to continue making the mortgage payments.

If a lien exists on a home due to Medicaid benefits, we have a different scenario. In this instance, Medicaid has a legal and statutory right to be paid in full for any amounts it provided to the parent as a benefit while they were alive. In other words, if the children want to keep the home, then they will personally be required to pay the Medicaid liens that exist. If the children do not have the money to pay the lien themselves, the home will likely have to be sold and the money from the sale of the home will then used to pay the Medicaid lien. If anybody is left over then it could be distributed to the children.

We have helped numerous clients deal with selling their parents’ home after their parents have passed away. Even though there may be issues or liens that must be resolved, we are confident that we can help you too.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Pocatello 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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