How to Protect My Inherited House

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

Inheriting a house is about more than just acquiring a structure; it’s about continuing a legacy and embracing a piece of family history. But how do you ensure this new asset doesn’t turn into a source of stress? With ownership comes the duty to protect it, necessitating a grasp of estate law, property rights, and maintenance fundamentals. 

Understanding Your Inheritance

When you inherit a house, it’s important to grasp the full scope of what you’ve received. This means understanding any conditions tied to the inheritance, such as outstanding debts, liens, or specific directives laid out in the will or trust. Each of these factors can significantly influence your rights and responsibilities regarding the property. It’s also wise to assess the house’s current state, including its market value and any immediate repairs or maintenance it may need. Getting a clear picture early on can help you make informed decisions about your newly acquired asset.

Immediate Steps to Take

Upon inheriting a house, taking swift, decisive actions can ensure its security. Here are key steps to consider:

  • Change the Locks: Immediately secure the property to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Install or Update Security Systems: Enhance safety with modern security features, including alarms and surveillance cameras.
  • Update Insurance Policies: Ensure the property is adequately insured against damages and liabilities.
  • Transfer Utilities: To avoid service interruptions, have all utility bills (electricity, water, gas) transferred to your name.
  • Address Property Taxes: Update tax records and ensure property taxes are paid to prevent legal issues.
  • Create an Inventory: Document valuables within the house for insurance purposes and personal record-keeping.

Legal Protection Strategies

To safeguard your inherited property, it’s a good idea to engage in strategic legal planning. Below are key strategies to protect your inheritance:

  • Establish a Trust: A trust can shield the property from going through probate and reduce exposure to estate taxes. It also allows for detailed directives on how the property should be managed or distributed in the future.
  • Consider a Life Estate: By establishing a life estate, you retain the right to live in or use the property for your lifetime while designating a beneficiary to inherit it after your passing. This strategy ensures a smooth and automatic transfer of ownership without the need for probate.
  • Transfer to an LLC: Moving the property into a Limited Liability Company (LLC) can limit personal liability from claims related to the property and offer tax advantages, especially for rental properties. 
  • Review and Update Estate Plans: Incorporating your inherited property into your estate plan helps ensure it aligns with your overall wishes and future intentions. Regular reviews allow you to adjust as your situation or the laws change, keeping your plan current.
  • Consult with an Attorney: Understanding the legal intricacies of your inherited property can be challenging. An attorney experienced in estate and property law can offer advice tailored to your specific circumstances, helping you optimize protection strategies.

Maintaining and Improving Your Inherited Property

Maintaining and enhancing your inherited property is important not just for its preservation but also for potentially increasing its value. Regular maintenance checks, such as inspecting the roof, plumbing, and electrical systems, can prevent minor issues from turning into costly repairs. Investing in updates or renovations can also add significant value, whether it’s modernizing the kitchen, landscaping the garden, or upgrading the heating and cooling systems. Beyond the immediate aesthetic and functional improvements, these efforts contribute to the property’s long-term health and marketability. 

Unique Estate Law Can Help with Your Inheritance in Minnesota

At Unique Estate Law, we provide personalized guidance to protect your inherited property. We are dedicated to ensuring your peace of mind with a comprehensive approach to estate planning and property protection. Ready to secure your legacy? Contact us today for professional advice tailored to your unique situation.

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.