Emmersons Solicitors - Newcastle and Sunderland
Of course the house is insured?
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Of course the house is insured?

As a solicitor dealing with Probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney I have noticed that increasingly properties are not insured. This can of course lead to disastrous consequences.

In one case recently, a man had died and his son asked me to deal with the probate in respect of the estate. As part of my usual enquiries I wanted to know with whom the deceased’s house was insured. After searching through mountains of paperwork my client came to the conclusion that the property was uninsured. He decided that as it was in a fairly safe area and that as the contents of the property were of little value it was pointless paying for expensive insurance. Unfortunately there was then a leak from the property which caused considerable damage to the neighbouring house. Of course the first thing that the neighbour wanted to know was who was insuring the empty property because he wanted to make a claim.

In another case, a client was managing a property on behalf of an elderly relative who was living in a care home. The property needed tidying up before it was placed on the market for sale. We did discuss the issue of insurance. However, as empty property insurance is quite expensive and as this property was to be placed on the market within a month my client decided not to insure the same. The day before the property went to auction vandals started a fire and the roof and walls suffered serious damage!

If you are managing a property on behalf of an elderly relative, especially if you are their Attorney, then you must manage it with all due diligence. In the two cases above consideration was given to insuring the properties. The clients in question made their decisions having weighed up all relevant factors. Neither had forseen the consequences that ensued.

You should deal with house insurance on an urgent basis if you are dealing with a probate or if the owner has had to go into a home. Many insurance companies will extend existing insurance for a number of months as long as the property is inspected on a regular basis and all water supplies are switched off. It can be more difficult to obtain insurance when there has been none. Some companies insist on window locks being fitted to all downstairs windows and five lever mortice locks on doors. Many well-known insurers will not deal with empty property insurance. We have managed to find some specialist brokers who will offer this service though for some reason will not deal with our clients directly. Instead they ask us to deal with them on behalf of our clients.

If you have insurance please make sure that you print off your policy and keep it with your copy will. It is often difficult to find out which policies a deceased person, or someone with a mental incapacity has if they bought them online. If you are helping an elderly relative please make sure that their property is insured.

A related topic is the matter of door keys. If someone has recently died or had to go into a home you should consider changing the locks to their property as a matter of urgency. If you are an executor of an estate or an Attorney for someone then you have a responsibility either to the beneficiaries or the owner of the property to protect their interest.

Jacqueline Emmerson
Collaborative Family Lawyer
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