Selling a House in Pennsylvania When There is No Will
When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. This means that their property, including their house, will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. These laws determine who inherits the property based on the person’s family relationships. If you are the heir or the administrator of the estate, you may want to sell the house for various reasons, such as paying off debts, taxes, or expenses, or simply because you do not want to keep it. Here are some steps you need to follow:
1. Open an estate. The first step is to open a estate with the Register of Wills Office in the county where the person died. You will need to file a petition for probate and a death certificate, and pay a filing fee. The court will then appoint an administrator to manage the estate. The administrator is usually the closest living relative of the person who died, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. If there is more than one eligible person, they can either agree on who will serve as the administrator, or the court will decide.
2. Notify the heirs and creditors. The next step is to notify the heirs and creditors of the person who died. The heirs are the people who inherit the property according to the intestacy laws. The creditors are the people or entities who have a claim against the estate, such as mortgage lenders, utility companies, credit card companies, or medical providers. The administrator must publish a notice of the estate in a local newspaper and send a written notice to each heir and creditor. The notice must include the name and address of the administrator, the name and date of death of the person who died, and the deadline for filing claims against the estate. The deadline is usually one year from the date of death.
3. Inventory and appraise the estate. The administrator must also inventory and appraise the estate, which means listing and valuing all the assets and liabilities of the person who died. This includes the house, as well as any other real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, vehicles, personal property, debts, taxes, and expenses. The administrator must file an inventory with the court within nine months of the date of death.
4. Pay the debts, taxes, and expenses. This includes the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, insurance, maintenance, repairs, funeral costs, administration fees, and any other claims against the estate. The administrator must use the estate’s funds to pay these obligations, and if the funds are not enough, the administrator may need to sell some of the assets, such as the house, to cover the shortfall. The administrator must keep receipts and records of all the payments and report them to the court.
5. Distribute the proceeds to the heirs. After selling the house, the administrator must distribute the proceeds to the heirs according to the intestacy laws. The distribution depends on the family situation of the person who died. The administrator must file an account with the court, showing how the proceeds were distributed and providing receipts from the heirs.
6. Close the estate. The final step is to close the estate. The administrator must file a petition for final settlement with the court, requesting to be discharged from their duties. The administrator must also notify the heirs and creditors of the petition and give them an opportunity to object or consent. The court will then review the petition and the account, and if everything is in order, the court will approve the final settlement and close the estate.
Selling a house in Pennsylvania when there is no will can be a daunting task, but it is not impossible. By following these steps and seeking legal advice from a qualified probate attorney, you can successfully complete the process and honor the wishes of your loved one.