A guide to Insuring an empty house after the death of the owner

About this guide

Losing a loved one is a difficult and often overwhelming experience. We are very sorry for your loss.

We know when a loved one dies, their passing can sometimes leave behind an empty house. The the burden of dealing with the property's and estate affairs can add to the emotional strain.

One of the important tasks in this situation is to ensure that the empty property is properly insured. Particularly if you are acting as the executor, as it is your responsibility to arrange the right insurance policy.

This can be a complex and confusing process, especially if you are unfamiliar with the intricacies of unoccupied property insurance. It is not the same as insuring an unoccupied home.

Insuristic has developed a probate house insurance product designed particularly for people insuring in your situation.

This guide will help you understand what is involved when insuring an empty house after the death of the owner. You can read the guide from start to finish or click on any of the items in 'Contents' to jump to the section that interests you.

If you have questions that aren't answered on this page, start an online chat. In busy times it may not always be possible to answer immediately, but we will always respond to your questions via email too.

Contents

Considerations when insuring an empty house after the death of the owner

We are sorry for your loss.

We know that this is a stressful time for you and there are many things that you need to take care of.

As well as dealing with the emotional aspects, there is much to do on the legal and financial side.

Reviewing the existing house Insurance is an important task. If you are acting as an executor, it is your responsibility to arrange suitable insurance.

If you get this wrong and a claim is not paid out as a result, the beneficiaries could look to you to reimburse the estate. But don't worry, we have made this process easy.

Here are some considerations when Insuring an empty house after the death of the owner:

  • If there is a remaining spouse or partner, you should contact the existing insurer to update them to make arrangements to keep the house insured. You may find the buildings and contents insurance is with different providers so make sure you contact them both.

  • If the house is occupied by dependents or future beneficiaries that don't yet have an insurable interest in the house, you may find that some insurers are reluctant to provide cover. Don't worry, we can help you if this is the case but you will need to contact us or start a chat to arrange a call back. The product we offer would be a standard house insurance product with the option to insure the house in the name of the estate.

  • If the house is empty, you may find the existing insurance provider reluctant to continue cover. This is because many insurers are reluctant to insure property that is going to be empty for 30 consecutive days or more. If the insurer continues cover it may be at a higher price with extra policy conditions which may not be easy for you to adhere to. If this is the case, you should get a quote from a specialist, like Insuristic. We could save you time, money and stress.  You can get a quote from our probate house insurance page.

Useful Tips:

  • The house needs to be insured in the name of the Estate, for example:

    • If there is a will: The Insured name should be 'The Executors of the estate of Name of the Deceased'

    • If there is no will: The Insured name should be 'Administrators of the estate of Name of the Deceased'

  • The contents insurance cover for unoccupied property isn’t designed for high value theft attractive items like works of art, jewellery or collections.  You will find there will be a single article limit, usually in the region of £1,000.  So valuables should be removed from the property and stored securely.

  • When the property has been inherited or sold, it will then need to be insured on a more appropriate policy, which could be:

    • Another unoccupied property insurance policy, if the house is still going to be empty.  Insuristic can help with this, you can find out more on our unoccupied home insurance page.

    • If the house is going to be occupied by the beneficiary, they can take out a standard house insurance policy but insured in the name of the estate. If this is the case we can provide a quotation. Start a chat or contact us to arrange a call from one of the SJL Insurance Services team.

    • If the house is being let out to tenants, then a Landlords policy can be purchased. We can provide a quotation for this over the phone. Please contact us to arrange a call back.

What if the Property is still occupied?

While most unoccupied probate properties require specialised insurance, things get a bit trickier when someone continues to live there.

Standard home insurance and unoccupied probate policies won't quite tick the boxes in these situations.

Here's what to consider:

Surviving Joint Owner: If a joint owner remains, updating the existing provider with news of the death usually solves the problem. It's a seamless transition, ensuring the property continues to be covered.

Occupants Without Insurable Interest: But what if dependents, beneficiaries, or tenants reside in the property? They may lack the "insurable interest" required for standard home insurance.  

Finding the Right Fit: Don't worry! Our team at SJL Insurance specialises in these nuances. They can offer a different product specifically tailored for occupied probate properties. It balances the needs of the estate with the occupancy aspect, providing the necessary protection.

Simple Steps to Secure Coverage:

  1. Schedule a Callback: Click the button below to connect with our friendly brokers. They'll navigate your specific situation and recommend the best solution.
  2. Secure Coverage in the Estate's Name: Even though the property is occupied, the insurance can still be arranged in the name of the Executors or Administrators. This ensures the estate's interests are prioritised.
  3. Enjoy Peace of Mind: With the right cover in place, you can confidently manage the probate process knowing the occupied property is well-protected.

Remember, proactive planning and a call to SJL Insurance are key to ensuring everyone's needs are met when insuring an occupied probate property. They're here to guide you through every step and find the perfect insurance fit.

How the cover will differ from standard home insurance

When you are insuring an empty house after the death of the owner, you need to understand the cover available will be different to a standard home insurance product.

You will also find that the cover will also vary between insurance providers.

Here are the key differences:

The property will need to be inspected

If the property is empty, your insurance company will need someone to inspect the house.  Ensure you check how frequently your insurer needs this done. Some may insist on this being every 7 days and may also require detailed written evidence of the inspection. If there is a claim, you will need to evidence that the inspection condition has been adhered to.

  • If you insure with Insuristic, we only require an inspection every 30 days; plus

  • To evidence the inspection, the person inspecting the property needs to take two images with their mobile phone (one of the front of the house and one inside). The time and date is be stored in the image, making it easy to evidence inspections in the event of a claim.  

Contents cover is often restricted on unoccupied property

The contents insurance cover for unoccupied property isn’t designed for high value theft attractive items like works of art, jewellery or collections.  You will find there will be a single article limit, usually in the region of £1,000.  So valuables should be removed from the property and stored securely.

Most insurance providers will recommend draining water systems

Many will insist that this is done as a policy condition.

When insuring an empty property after the death of the owner, it is understandable that things can be missed.

One often overlooked risk, is escape of water. This type of risk, unfortunately, tops the list of claims for unoccupied property, and the resulting damage can be extensive and time-consuming to repair. Worse yet, it can significantly disrupt your plans for the estate during a period already filled with complexities.

To minimise this risk, you have two main options:

1. Drain down the water systems: This is the most comprehensive solution, eliminating the potential for leaks altogether. While it may involve some initial cost and inconvenience, it offers peace of mind and the best possible escape of water cover under your policy – up to the full building sum insured.

2. Keep the heating on during winter: From October to March, maintaining a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius is crucial. This helps prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, a common cause of water damage.

If you insure with Insuristic we can provide some cover for escape of water (provided you have implemented either points 1 or 2 above).

Our Silver Cover provides £3,500 cover for escape of water and Gold provides £5,000 cover.

 

Renovations on the Horizon? Don't Forget This Key Step!

When you are insuring an empty house after the death of the owner, you might be considering how the property can be improved to help its future resale value.

If this is the case, be aware that many insurers will need to know about any planned renovations (beyond basic painting and decorating) before offering coverage.

But here's where Insuristic eases the burden.

For renovations costing less than £50,000 and not involving major structural changes like wall or roof alterations, we can provide an online quote for your house insurance with no extra charges.

Think bathroom or kitchen upgrades, rewiring or replumbing, or even replacing doors and windows – as long as the total cost stays below £50,000, you're good to go!

For larger projects exceeding the £50,000 threshold or where there are structural improvements being planned, simply complete the online quote information and our team will take it from there.

We'll refer these changes to our underwriters for a personalized assessment. And if your specific renovation plans fall outside our scheme, don't worry! Our partners at SJL Insurance Services are renovation pros. They can offer expert advice and connect you with a range of specialist insurers who can handle even the most ambitious projects.

Remember, open communication with your insurance provider is crucial throughout the renovation process. By keeping them informed, you can ensure smooth sailing for your project and avoid any unexpected coverage hiccups. So, breathe easy, tackle those renovations with confidence, and let Insuristic or SJL Insurance Services handle the insurance side of things!

With a little planning and proactive communication, your renovation journey can be just as smooth as the freshly painted walls (or the sparkling new bathroom, whichever comes first!).

Consider how you can improve the protection of the property whilst it is empty

As you navigate the complexities of probate, safeguarding the unoccupied property within the estate becomes a crucial responsibility. To ensure its security and value are preserved, consider these insurance and risk management strategies:

Maintaining the Property:

  • Reasonable Repair: Your insurers expect the house to be in good condition. Regular upkeep prevents potential claims and preserves its value. Neglecting repairs, like a missing roof tile during a storm, could jeopardise future claims.
  • Valuables Removal: Minimise theft risks by removing valuable items like jewelry, art, and collections. Your policy's individual item limit, often around £1,000, may not offer sufficient protection for these items.

Security Measures:

  • Minimum Security Compliance: Check your policy for minimum security conditions, particularly when buildings have a high value or has significant contents. This typically involves having the following security protection:
    • External doors: 5-lever mortice deadlocks (BS 3621 compliant) or multi-locking systems for composite/UPVC doors.
    • Patio doors: Central locking, key-operated bolts, or multi-locking point systems.
    • Windows: Key-operated security locks on all ground floor and accessible windows.

Failure to meet these standards could invalidate theft claims.

If you aren't insuring contents, Insuristic has simplied its minimum security.  In this scenario, you would just need to confirm the property has working locks on all the windows and doors.

Escape of Water Prevention:

As we have already suggested in this article, the following is usually recommended by insurers:

  • Escape of Water Prevention: Draining water systems at the internal stop cock significantly reduces the risk of burst pipes and costly damage. Your policy may offer reduced cover if such precautions are not taken.
  • Winter Precautions: Burst pipes are especially common during winter. Your insurer may:
    • Recommend water system draining.
    • Require heating to be maintained at 15 degrees during the winter months if draining isn't feasible.
    • Exclude or reduce escape of water coverage if these conditions aren't met.

Utilities and Services:

  • Disconnect Non-Essentials: Your policy likely requires turning off gas and electricity at the mains, except for intruder or fire alarm operation. 

Contractor Management:

If you are having any work done at the property make sure to verify that your contractors hold valid public liability insurance.  This will cover you for any accidental damage they cause to your property or injury to non-employees. Check the policy schedule for:

  • Matching business activities to the contracted work.
  • Valid policy expiry date.
  • Adequate coverage level for the project.

Maintaining an appearance of occupancy:

Try to make the property look lived in.  This will make it look less theft attractive to potential burglars. 

  • Post Removal: Regularly remove mail and newspapers, and redirect them if possible. A cluttered mailbox screams "Vacant!" to potential intruders and increases fire risk. Your policy may also require preventing post build-up.
  • Garden Upkeep: Tidy gardens and cleared paths present a lived-in image, deterring trespassers.

Remember:

  • Always review your policy documents to understand your specific coverage and conditions.
  • Proactive steps like these proactive measures go a long way in protecting the empty property and ensuring smooth insurance claims if needed.

Additional Insurance Considerations for Executors

While securing unoccupied property insurance is crucial for executors, their responsibility extends beyond the four walls. Let's explore some additional policies you should consider:

  • Land Insurance: If the deceased owned land not included in their home's deeds, protecting it with land insurance becomes vital. As landowners, executors inherit the duty of care for anyone on that land. This liability falls upon the estate until distribution, hence the need for insurance against third-party claims from injuries or property damage.
  • Section 27 Insurance: Provides protection against claims from unknown creditors popping up after estate distribution, offered with or without a Section 27 Notice.
  • Early Distribution Insurance: Provides protection against claims from unknown dependents if circumstances necessitate distributing the estate before the usual six-month waiting period ends.  
  • Missing Will Insurance: Offers a safety net if a new will surfaces after distribution, protecting the executors from additional legal costs and the beneficiaries from the threat of repaying their inheritance.
  • Missing Beneficiary Insurance: Covers the risk of known or unknown beneficiaries emerging with claims against the already-distributed estate.

Our dedicated guide to executor insurance delves deeper into these policies and their nuances, guiding you through the cover options and at what stage they should be considered.

Considering these additional insurance options alongside unoccupied property coverage, helps you fulfill your executor duties with confidence, knowing the estate and its beneficiaries are well-protected against unforeseen risks.

FAQ's: Insuring an empty house after the death of the owner

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns a property when the owner dies?

In the UK, when a property owner dies, the ownership of the property typically passes to their beneficiaries as outlined in their will.

If there is no will, the rules of intestacy apply, which dictate how the property will be distributed based on the deceased's family circumstances.

Here's a general overview of what happens:

With a will:

  • The Executors in the will is responsible for handling the deceased's estate, including arranging for the property to be transferred to the beneficiaries.
  • The will specifies who will inherit the property and any other assets.
  • The process of transferring ownership can involve applying for probate, which is a legal process that confirms the validity of the will.

Without a will (intestacy):

  • The Administrators will be responsible for handling and distributing the estate.
  • The rules of intestacy determine who inherits the property.
  • Generally, the spouse or civil partner inherits the first £322,000 of the estate, and the remaining assets are shared among other close relatives like children, parents, and siblings.
  • The process of inheritance may be simpler without a will, but it can also lead to unintended consequences if the deceased's wishes were not formally documented.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • If the property is jointly owned, the surviving owner will automatically inherit the deceased's share.
  • There may be outstanding debts or mortgages on the property that the beneficiaries will need to address.

Who pays for the house insurance whilst going through probate?

The Executors (if there is a Will) or Administrators (if there is no Will) are responsible for arranging and paying for insurance.  However, the specifics of payment and who ultimately bears the financial burden can involve several factors:

  1. Availability of funds: If the deceased's estate has sufficient funds, it can pay for the insurance policy and treat the cost as an estate expense.
  2. No available funds: If the estate does not have the cash to pay for the insurance, this would need to be paid for by the Executors, Administrators or beneficiaries and reclaimed as an estate expense prior to the estates distribution.

How can I check if a house is insured?

There is no official database to check if a property is insured.  So you might have to do a little investigatory work to uncover the details of any existing insurer.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Review the deceased's bank account: to check for any regular payments to an insurance provider.
  2. Purchase a financial asset search:  Which may uncover details of an insurance policy.  You can find out more on our Financial Asset Search page.   

The Executors or Administrators should remember it is their responsibility to arrange a suitable insurance policy.  If you can't find an insurance policy, it may be worth immediately insuring the property yourself for peace of mind. 

Is a house still insured if the owner dies?

Not necessarily.  If the property is going to be long term unoccupied, the existing insurer (if the policy hasn't lapsed) may be reluctant to continue cover.

If the existing insurer does agree to continue to cover the property in the name of the estate, make sure:

  • You can comply with any new policy conditions.  Failure to adhere to these may result in you having no cover or claims payments reduced
  • The sums insured is adequate.  In the UK, it is estimated that 8/10 properties are underinsured.  If the property is significantly underinsured, in the event of a claim the insurer could void the policy.  For moderate underinsurance, the value of the claim will be reduced inline with the percentage of underinsurance.

So it is important to review the existing insurance as soon as possible.  In the event of any shortfall following a claim, the executors or administrators could be liable to reimburse the estate for the loss.

We have written a couple of blog posts that might be of interest:

How do I find the age of a house?

If you aren't familiar with a property, it can be difficult to know the age of a house or when it was built.  When you are arranging insurance, you will need to know this.

Insuristic have tried to make this easier for you by suggesting broad groups of property periods such as '1946-1979' but some insurance providers may require you to be more precise.

If you don't have the title deeds you will have to do some investigatory work.

We have written a guide called 'How to find out when a house was built' which will provide you lots of ways to find out when a house was built.

Get a quote

If you are insuring an empty house after the death of the owner, Insuristic will help you do this with ease.  You can arrange cover online in a couple of minutes.

  • Choose from 3 levels of cover.
  • No early cancellation Fees.  You will also receive a pro-rata refund for any unused cover.
  • Support in the event of a claim if you need it.

Related Probate Insurance Pages

About the Author

Rob Faulkner

Hi, I'm Rob, CEO and Founder of Insuristic. My mission is to make insurance easier to understand and buy online.

I hold an Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII) which demonstrates I have a solid technical understanding of Insurance and have committed to continuous professional development. I am also a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute and hold the a Chartered Insurance Broker status.

Over the last 27 years, I have worked for insurers, insurance brokers and insurance technology businesses, specialising in product, sales and marketing.

You can find out more about me on my author page.

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Insuristic Limited (No: 13926650), is an Appointed Representative of SJL (Worcester) Ltd, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority with the reference number 763599. This can be checked by visiting https://register.fca.org.uk/s/.  Insuristic is a registered trademark. ©Copyright 2023 Insuristic Limited.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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