When a loved passes away, the family is usually left to figure out how to deal with the estate. In many cases, the family home is the largest and most valuable part of the estate. It can also be a matter of contention amongst the survivors. Read on and find out more.

When the Deceased is Married

Unless other provisions have been made, the home may pass automatically to the surviving spouse. In fact, most states have provisions that prevent anyone from depriving the spouse of a place to live. If there is no will, trust, or special deed, the home may be divided equally between the spouse and any adult children. Each state deals with this matter differently, though. If the home goes directly to the spouse, then the home stays out of probate.

When Everyone Gets the House 

Sometimes, the maker of the will adds a per stirpes provision. That means the entire estate is to be equally divided between the named beneficiaries or adult children of the deceased. This is assuming there is no living spouse. When several people end up owing a piece of real estate in equal shares, they must work together to discuss their options. Here is how many survivors deal with per stirpes provisions regarding the family home:

  1. Sell the home and divide the profit between all beneficiaries.
  2. Rent out the home and come to an agreement on paying expenses and dealing with renters.
  3. One party buys out the others using the appraised value of the home.
  4. All three keep the home in their names and use it occasionally.
  5. One party rents the home from the others.

If nothing is done, the deed gets changed to show all the owners once probate is complete.

When the Home Avoids Probate

A right of survivorship deed, as it's known in some states, takes probate out of the real estate business. The deed adds beneficiaries to exist alongside the owners of the home. The owner cannot be removed from the deed and has the right to change the deed at any time. However, once the owner passes away, the home goes automatically to the beneficiaries named on the deed. If such a deed has been prepared, the home will go to those named regardless of any provisions in the will.

For questions about what happens to the family home, speak to an estate planning lawyer in charge of the estate.