Home Insurance During Probate – What Happens?

Caeva O'Callaghan | May 20th, 2024

Probate can be a difficult and emotional time, so you shouldn’t worry about home insurance. As long as you pass on the news to the home insurance provider, the home will be covered if anything bad happens.

After a person passes away, their property goes into probate. Often, this means leaving the house empty for some time. If you’re the beneficiary, you’re responsible for protecting the property with unoccupied home insurance.

In this article, we’ll cover the following questions:

  • What happens to home insurance during probate?
  • Who organizes home insurance when someone dies?
  • What is unoccupied home insurance?

When a loved one passes away, it can be important that things move quickly to make sure everything is secure. Your insurance provider will work with you to help you navigate these tricky times with sensitivity.

What is probate?

Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is “proved” in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets, paying all final taxes and bills, and distributing what’s left over amongst the beneficiaries stated in the will.

Simply speaking, probate is the waiting period while the legal stuff is sorted out. Probate is when the will is gone over, beneficiaries are located and contacted, and the estate is divided up between creditors, relatives and anyone stated in the will.

As you can imagine, it can take a while. Sometimes it can be a quick process if everything is in order, but if there are many beneficiaries, a complex estate, or if the will was drawn up a long time ago, it will take longer.

This means that, in many cases, the house is left empty. This is not great for home insurance. Not only is there no one in the property to maintain it, empty houses can attract break-ins. However, no one in the property means less chance of accidents. These changing risk factors mean you need to sort out a whole new kind of insurance.

Unoccupied home insurance

The first thing you need to do is inform the home insurance provider that the owner of the home has died. Your solicitor may do this for you. Once they know, the provider will change the insured to either “Representatives of the Late” or the surviving spouse or next of kin’s name. Sometimes the insurance company will require a copy of the death certificate, but not always.

Of course, if someone is still living in the house nothing needs to change. And if the house will be unoccupied for thirty days or less, it’s possible you can keep the same home insurance. Check with the provider, because these terms may be different.

However, if the house is unoccupied and will be for a month or longer, the home insurance provider can reduce the policy to fire and liability only.

If you’re going to sell the property, or no one can move in for a couple of months or more, a beneficiary needs to organise unoccupied home insurance. This will cover the property for a range of risks like damage from fire, theft and flooding. They can include liability for any damage that your house may cause to others, such as a chimney stack falling onto the pavement. This means you can leave the home empty for long periods, and the insurance will cover it if something bad happens.

However, check your policy carefully – or get a broker to do so – as there can also be some exclusions. For example, cover against malicious damage or vandalism may require an additional policy. And if the house won’t be cleared out for a while, contents cover could be more expensive if the home is left unoccupied for a long period.

Unoccupied home risks

Unoccupied properties are vulnerable to many risks, but there’s lots of things you can do for better peace of mind during probate.

Leaving a house empty makes it more prone to damage and losses. This is because you may not discover or be able to fix problems for a long time. This includes storm damage, leaking or burst pipes, and other issues.

Not only that, but if a property is obviously empty it will attract vandals, thieves and squatters.

Some unoccupied home insurance policies require you to visit every seven days. So, if you live a long way away you need to keep this in mind.

When you do visit, or if you can organize someone to visit:

  • Remove post from the doormat
  • Open or close curtains and blinds
  • Switch lights on and off
  • Take out and bring in the bins

But even if you’re not in the property, there’s things you can do to reduce risk.

  • Install smart lights you can control from your phone and schedule them to make the property appear lived in
  • Get a smart doorbell (again, with an app on your phone) so you can see and speak to visitors
  • Keep the heating on at a minimum of 15 ° celsius or turn off and drain the water system

Of course, it’s in your interest to maintain the property as a beneficiary. Any damage or loss may affect its value when or if the time comes to sell.

If you have any questions about home insurance and probate call us anytime.

If you are unsure of how to deal with your home insurance during the probate process, call and talk to our insurance experts who can advise you of how best to deal with your specific set of circumstances. We can help guide you through this sensitive and difficult time. You can contact us between 8.30am and 5.30pm Mon-Fri on 0818 224433 or 042 9359051.

If you ever need a quote for your own home, we compare home insurance in Ireland from the leading providers to help find the right cover for your needs. We look forward to hearing from you. 

All Information in this post is accurate as of the date of publishing.