Can Estate Funds Be Used For House Repairs?

As an executor, you are supposed to work tirelessly in the best interest of the deceased and the beneficiaries. However, the law is very clear on what you as the executor can and cannot do with the estate funds. Whether from the loss of a loved one or you simply manage another estate, understanding how estate funds can be spent is important information for making decisions down the line. 

One of the most common questions that executors ask when managing estates is: can estate funds be used for house repairs? We’ll cover that topic in detail here. 

Can You Use Estate Funds To Repair The House?

Whether you are the executor or beneficiary of an estate, you need to know when you can and cannot use estate funds to repair a house. It depends on the type of repairs to be done to the house and who the repairs will benefit. 

For example, if repairs are needed to the house that belonged to the deceased in order to sell it, then those repairs can be made. After all, a higher sale price would certainly be a benefit to whomever is to inherit the proceeds of the sale. For example, landscaping to increase property value would most likely help the home sell more quickly and justify a higher sale price.

Also, if some part of the house’s value will be required to pay estate debts, you will be able to justify the repairs to the beneficiary. However, if that is not the case then repairs will likely not be justifiable unless they are required by a special situation. 

For example, if a beneficiary with special needs is going to occupy a house included in the estate, modifications may be justifiable. Another situation that may require home repairs to be made by the estate occurs when a house in the estate has suffered storm damage, for example.

In the event that there is not enough cash available for such repairs, it is possible to get a hardship withdrawal from a retirement account. For example, the 401(K) Hardship Withdrawals for Home Repairs provision allows you to use money from the 401K in the estate. Even if this power is not provided specifically by the will, state law provides it. 

However, there are some less clear-cut modifications, especially the ones that may also benefit others, are more expensive, or increase the property’s value substantially.

A good example is when the modifications of a swimming pool or sauna are meant to provide doctor-recommended therapy for the beneficiary. While these modifications are supposed to aid the beneficiary, they are also likely to benefit the property owner by adding value to the property. It is also going to be very murky for you, as the executor, if you use estate funds to do large-scale repairs such as installing a new roof or enhanced water supply. Such modifications certainly benefit the beneficiary as well as the property owner and anyone else living in the house.

You should probably not undertake any repairs without first getting the advice of an attorney. Of course, the executor would always have the option of selling the house as-is to avoid the issue of repairs entirely.

Conclusion

It should be clear by now that repairs and modifications to a house in an estate should be evaluated with the help of an attorney before an executor goes ahead with such work. If they will result in an enlargement of the estate, then it should be permissible to have the work done. 

If you wish to use estate funds to do special needs modifications and repairs, you need to know exactly what modifications need to be done and why they are important. Then, talk to your special needs planner to advise you on how you can have the modifications and repairs done while protecting the estate’s beneficiary.Finally, there are a number of other posts on the topic of paying for home repairs and improvements with a bank loan, including subtopics such as deducting home improvement loans from your taxes.  Follow the link if this topic is of interest to you.

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