Unoccupied property insurance and probate

Posted: 4th Jun 2014

Sadly, people die and when they do, they may leave property and other items of their estate behind. A legal process needs to be completed before they can be distributed through inheritance to whoever the beneficiaries of the estate may be.

This legal process is typically described as probate and it may have an effect on the insurance of a property that you own, administer or are in the process of inheriting:

  • if somebody dies, whether or not they have left a will, there may inevitably be a period during which any property they owned and lived in, is sitting unoccupied;
  • while the exact legal processes surrounding inheritance and transfer of ownership are undertaken, it might in some circumstances be impossible to do much with the property concerned before completion of the said probate;
  • once a property sits unoccupied for more than a period of time specified within a buildings and contents policy (typically 30-45 days), any existing insurance may become invalid;
  • cover may only be maintained in a situation where you have taken out a policy providing unoccupied property insurance – probate itself makes no difference to this requirement;
  • however sympathetic an individual insurance provider may be to the circumstances surrounding the death of the property owner concerned, the provisions of their existing policy relating to the maximum permissible period without occupants will typically need to be maintained
  • the conclusion here is relatively straightforward, if you are responsible for the administration of a property under probate or are expecting to inherit it in due course, you should take all steps to make sure that it is covered by appropriate unoccupied property insurance if nobody is currently living in it
  • it is worth bearing in mind also that once you do have appropriate cover in place, the policy may require someone to regularly inspect the property and to keep it in tidy lived-in external appearance. That is a measure required in order to deter thieves, burglars, vandals and possibly squatters.

If you are the beneficiary of an inheritance relating to property, the original owner may well have intended that you should obtain a degree of financial benefit from the property concerned.

It is therefore in your best interests to be sure that you understand what role unoccupied property cover may play in that process.