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How to insure a property after the owner dies

uk property

It makes sombre reading that, at the time of writing, nearly 45,000 people in the UK who tested positive for Covid-19 have died. Not only that but with the NHS overstretched and unable to carry out some necessary operations and tests, there have been a so-called ‘excess’ of deaths.

This leaves tens of thousands of people not only grieving for a loved one but also potentially having the stress of sorting out the owner's estate. This article discusses the often-overlooked topic of insuring a property after the owner dies.

Many people assume that the existing home insurance policy in the deceased owner's name will be enough – this is not the case.

Here is what you need to know.

Changing the name on the home insurance policy

In the first instance, if you are the surviving spouse of the deceased owner, you need to inform your home insurance provider so that the policy details can be updated.

If the deceased owner has died and has no spouse, then in the interim, the home insurance policy needs to be put into the name of the Executor/s (named on the Will if there is one) until Probate* has been sorted.

In some cases, the existing home insurance provider will change the name on the policy and the cover will continue until the policy expires – or when Probate is granted – whatever happens first. It is essential to check that the policy provides protection for the empty property while the estate is going through Probate.

In other cases, the existing home insurance provider will cancel the cover, refund any monies due, and you will need to arrange Probate home insurance. This insurance will include an element of unoccupied property cover as standard.

Why is unoccupied property insurance so important?

All home insurance policies typically allow properties to be unoccupied for a set amount of time without the cover lapsing or becoming severely restricted. The amount of time depends on the individual insurer, but usually, periods of 30-45 or even 60 consecutive days are common. This gives the property owner cover when they are away on holidays, for example.

After 30, 45 or 60 consecutive days, the unoccupied property element is no longer valid, and you run the risk of having an uninsured property. With a property undergoing Probate and thereafter (for example, when the property is awaiting sale) the home will be standing empty (even if it is still furnished). It will be vulnerable to more significant risks than a house which is lived in.

For example, a minor leak may cause a lot of water damage if no one is there to spot what has happened. And, an empty property attracts all manner of unwanted attention, from burglars, squatters, arsonists, vandals and other intruders.

As part of your probate home insurance, you will typically be required to help mitigate against any risks. This may include you or a representative making regular, logged visits to the property and ensuring that the outside is kept tidy, so the property looks lived in. If the property is standing empty during the winter months, there will be certain conditions under your policy cover that you will need to comply with such as keeping the property at a minimum temperature to avoid burst pipes.

You must understand what your responsibilities are, so if you are unsure, do ask your insurance provider who will be very happy to clarify the position.

You can read more about unoccupied property insurance here.

What does house insurance during Probate cover?

While policy features and benefits may vary depending on the policy provider, generally home insurance for property that is left unoccupied after the former owner dies is there to protect the:

  • structure and fabric of the building with buildings insurance (this includes fixtures and fittings such as fitted wardrobes, kitchens and bathrooms but not moveable items); 
  • contents against the risks of theft, loss or damage (if required);
  • property from claims from visitors, neighbours or members of the public who suffer an injury or have their own property damaged through contact with the empty home.

Flexible cover options

As the Probate process can take an indefinite period, the empty property must have adequate insurance throughout the process. Even once Probate has been granted, insurance will typically still be required until the property is sold.

Probate unoccupied property insurance can be flexible enough to cope with these situations. Most unoccupied property insurance providers will offer short term or temporary cover, which can be extended as required.

At UKinsuranceNET we can help

If someone has died and you are involved in sorting out their estate, at UKinsuranceNET, we understand that you are going through a challenging situation both emotionally and mentally with the reams of paperwork that need attention. We are here to help find you the most cost-effective and suitable solution for insuring a Probate property as well as provide helpful guidance and advice.

* Probate may or may not be needed on estates where there is a Will, and Probate may or may not be needed on estates where there is no Will. It all depends on the value of the deceased's assets. So, if a widower dies leaving a total estate worth £320,000 to his two children - which is less than the inheritance tax threshold – Probate may still be required.