When someone dies, the house in which they have been living is likely to become unoccupied. The property may remain empty throughout the period of probate – during which the eventual disposal of the home is determined, in accordance with the deceased person’s will.
Because the executor or executors of the deceased have a duty to safeguard and protect the assets of the estate – including property – adequate insurance needs to be arranged during this period.
It might be possible to transfer any existing home insurance into the name of the deceased’s surviving spouse. As often as not, however, insurers are likely to insist upon an entirely new insurance policy.
Even when a simple transfer has been made, however, there is a further consideration to be taken into account if the property is going to be left vacant and unoccupied during the probate period.
Insurance for the unoccupied house with the owner deceased needs to replace any existing home insurance. Once the property has been empty for more than a number of consecutive days, restrictions and exclusions apply to the level of cover offered by standard home insurance.
Some insurers may impose those restrictions after 60 days (for example, home insurer Direct Line requires unoccupied home insurance after the property has been empty for 60 or more days). Other insurers will restrict the cover after 30 to 45 consecutive days.
The reason for such a response from insurers is the simple fact that an unoccupied property is exposed to greater risks than one in which someone is at home on a more or less continuous basis:
a minor fault may develop into a serious and damaging incident if there is no one there to spot what has happened in time; and
an empty property attracts all manner of unwanted attention, from the likes of burglars, arsonists, squatters, vandals and other intruders.
With normal cover restricted – or in some cases allowed to lapse altogether – unoccupied home insurance restores the protection that the building and its contents still need.
What it covers
Insurance for property that is left unoccupied after the former owner dies continues to ensure that the principal elements of protection are maintained. That is to say:
buildings insurance, to protect the structure and fabric of the building itself;
contents insurance protecting against the risks of theft, loss or damage to the contents; and
public liability insurance as indemnity against claims from visitors, neighbours or members of the public who suffer an injury or have their own property damaged through contact with the deceased’s empty property – even those trespassers who may have entered the house illegally.
Duration of the cover
Just as the process of probate may take an indefinite and indeterminate period of time, so too does unoccupied property insurance need to reflect that fact.
Fortunately, unoccupied property insurance for the deceased’s former home is typically flexible enough to cope with the vagaries of time before the completion of probate. If needs be, short term or temporary cover may be arranged and extended on a month by month basis – rather than having to pay for a full 12 months of cover as most other insurance policies are likely to insist.