selling inherited house

Understanding the Inheritance of a House: Legal Aspects

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Inheriting property often comes as a mixed blessing. On one hand, you’ve acquired a potentially valuable asset. On the other, it’s usually tied up with emotional connections and a labyrinth of legal considerations. Let’s navigate this complex landscape together.

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The Initial Stage: Probate Process

The legal process that kicks off after a person’s death is known as the probate process. This is where the validity of the deceased’s will is confirmed and the executor is formally appointed. The executor is tasked with administering the estate, which includes distributing assets like real estate according to the will.

If the deceased died intestate (without a will), the property will be distributed according to state intestacy laws. Typically, this means the closest relatives will inherit the property.

Mortgages and the Inherited House

If the inherited house has a mortgage attached to it, paying it off generally falls on the new owner. This is a crucial point many inheritors often overlook.

The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 protects inheritors from automatic mortgage acceleration. This means the lender cannot demand full payment immediately upon the borrower’s death. The inheritor can continue making payments or refinance the mortgage.

Dealing with Taxes

Inheritance tax and estate tax are terms often confused. Only six states impose an inheritance tax as of 2023, and whether you’ll have to pay depends on your relationship with the deceased.

Estate tax, on the other hand, is levied on the overall value of the deceased’s estate before distribution. The federal estate tax applies only to large estates exceeding a specific threshold. As of my knowledge cutoff in 2021, this threshold was $11.7 million.

Moreover, there’s the issue of capital gains tax when you sell the inherited property. Typically, you will pay this tax on the difference between the selling price and the inherited property’s stepped-up basis – the fair market value at the time of the deceased’s death.

Renting or Selling the Inherited Property

selling probate property

Inheriting a house doesn’t mean you have to live in it. You have options: sell, rent, or even keep it vacant. Before making a decision, consider the potential legal and financial implications. For instance, selling might result in capital gains tax, whereas renting it out would mean becoming a landlord with all its attendant responsibilities and legal obligations.

Co-Ownership Scenarios

In some cases, property may be inherited by multiple beneficiaries. This scenario brings its own set of complexities. You may need to invoke a partition action if you and your co-owners disagree about the property’s use. This legal action can force the sale of the property, with proceeds divided among the co-owners.


Inheriting a house is a significant event that comes with various legal considerations. Navigating through them might seem overwhelming, but understanding these key aspects – probate process, mortgages, taxes, potential usage, and co-ownership scenarios – can smooth your path. Consider consulting with a real estate attorney or tax professional to understand all the implications and make informed decisions.

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To get a fair cash offer today, get an online quote or contact us at 888-573-3810‪ to learn more about selling your house when behind on payments.

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Grant Garab solo

I am the proud co-owner of As a retired Marine, I devoted over sixteen years of my life to serving our great country.

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