Have you been asked to be an executor of someone’s estate? Perhaps you have an interest in probate which is already underway – and hope to inherit a property bequeathed to you by the deceased.
In either case, you are probably aware how potentially complicated, involved and time-consuming the legal process of probate may be – the website Inheritance Solutions, for example, advises that the average time is six weeks, but that it is not unusual for the process for drag on for many months.
Throughout this period, it is important to remember that if there is property involved in the estate – the home in which the deceased once lived, for example – probate home insurance needs to be arranged.
Why probate home insurance is so critical
If you have an interest in the process of probate because you hope to inherit a property, it may be easy to see why probate home insurance is so critical.
In that case, you want to ensure that the property you hope to inherit is properly protected until the moment of its handover comes. The deceased is clearly in no position to ensure that home insurance remains in place, so, you need the reassurance that probate home insurance is in force, pending completion of the probate process.
If you are an executor, you have a specific duty to ensure the protection of all of the estate’s assets – including property and any of its contents – under your care and control throughout the process of probate.
That means ensuring that you arrange adequate probate home insurance. If an accident occurs and the property suffers loss or damage that is not adequately insured, the estate suffers a financial loss – and you may be sued by beneficiaries of the estate for a breach of your duty as an executor. You may be held personally liable.
Property owner’s liability insurance
If any visitor to the property in probate, neighbour, or member of the public is injured or has their own property damaged and holds the estate responsible, the estate may be liable for paying a significant amount in compensation.
For that reason, the probate home insurance arranged by the executor to provide indemnity against such claims typically incorporates public liability insurance of at least £1 million – with some insurers offering up to £5 million of indemnity.
Property in probate is commonly exposed to yet a further vulnerability – and that is the fact that it may remain empty and unoccupied throughout the legal process.
An unoccupied probate property is especially vulnerable because:
- it attracts all manner of unwelcome attention from intruders, burglars, squatters, vandals and arsonists who may cause considerable damage; and
- an incident involving otherwise relatively minor maintenance may develop into a full-blown disaster is there is no one at home to raise the alarm.
For that reason, insurers typically curtail – or even regard an existing home insurance policy as having lapsed – once no one has been in residence for a period of 30-45 consecutive days (the exact period varying from one insurer to another).
When arranging any probate home insurance, therefore, it is equally important to ensure that adequate unoccupied property insurance remains in place for as long as the property remains empty.