Selling your childhood home, part two

Last week, I talked about the emotional and psychological pains that accompany selling your childhood home. This is one of those inevitable life events that not enough people seem to talk about, and, when we’re faced with it, there’s no survival manual for turning your childhood identity over to strangers.

If you plan it right, as attorney Scott Suzuki recommends, the farewell process as you clean the home and put it up for sale will hopefully leave you less depressed.
Emotional issues aside, there are some very real financial and legal issues that families need to brace themselves for if they haven’t thought about this situation ahead of time.

“The first thing I would stress is that families should try to deal with this topic in advance,” says Suzuki, who runs an estate planning boutique firm emphasizing elder law and special needs planning. “Discuss options with the attorney—if the family can't do that, it is better to sell the property, anyway, because it sounds like a fight is on the way.

“In many cases, early planning can help manage the emotions involved, and can also help to plan for other issues that may have been overlooked, such as probate, long-term care expenses and Medicaid liens against the home,” he says.

“I'd also stress that the family members should work as hard as they can to not fight about the home. That just lets the lawyers inherit the property,” Suzuki adds. “There are many options to work things out, beginning with communication, progressing to mediation and thenleading to litigation. Those wounds do not heal quickly.”

From there, of course, choose a real estate agent you feel comfortable with. As soon as you can, arrange for your parents' mail to be forwarded and continue insurance payments on the house even if it is going to be vacant. The children should also decide ahead of time how they will handle decisions about prices, offers, repairs, etc. Will decisions need to be unanimous, or can things be decided by majority? In case of an emergency, will there be one person who makes executive decisions?

It’s a big undertaking to sell your family home, believe me. But if you plan the business end of it ahead of time with your attorney and realtor, the emotional part will be much easier to deal with.