What happens to homeowners insurance when someone dies?

You typically have around 30 days to alert the home insurance company that the policyholder died. Otherwise, the policy will likely get canceled.

Jennifer Gimbel

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Jennifer Gimbel

Jennifer Gimbel

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

Jennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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You just inherited a home, but you’re not sure what happens to homeowners insurance when someone dies. Well, the process is actually pretty simple — you have around 30 days to contact the home insurance company, provide a death certificate to show the homeowner died, and discuss your options for a new policy — though exact rules vary by insurance company. If you don’t, the company will likely cancel the policy. The best thing to do is to contact the insurer ASAP after you’ve inherited a home to discuss your options.

Key takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance doesn’t automatically pass on to the new owner of the home after someone dies.

  • You usually have around 30 days to notify the insurance company that the homeowner died — otherwise they’ll likely cancel the policy and the home will be without coverage.

  • Even if you’re selling a home, it pays to take out a temporary or short-term home insurance policy in the meantime to ensure you’re protected until it’s sold.

  • If the home is vacant for more than 30 to 60 days, the insurance company will likely require you to add on vacant home insurance coverage since the home is at greater risk of vandalism and theft.

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How to transfer homeowners insurance after the owner dies

Follow these steps to buy a homeowners insurance policy after the owner dies and you'll inherit their home.

Step 1: Contact the insurance company.

Most companies require you to contact them within 30 days of the policyholder’s death, though the exact time frame varies by insurer. At this time, you’ll also need to provide a death certificate via email or fax. 

When you call them, ask about your options for coverage and when the next premium payment is due. You’ll want to make sure you continue to pay the insurance premiums so the current policy doesn’t lapse.

What if I don’t contact the insurance company within the 30-day grace period?

Legally, the insurance company can cancel the policy if you don’t follow their guidelines for alerting them of the policyholder’s death within the time frame listed in the policy. This means your inherited home won’t be covered and you’ll have to take out a new home insurance policy. Even worse, it can often be more difficult to purchase home insurance if a property has a history of canceled insurance on its record.

Step 2: Ask about your coverage options.

Depending on the insurance company, some will allow you to keep the current homeowners policy in effect until it expires — so long as you pay the premiums on time. This is especially true if you’re a surviving spouse, since you most likely were already listed as a “named insured” on the homeowners insurance policy in the first place.

Otherwise, the insurance company might give you around 30 days to purchase a new policy under your name. Double-check how much time you have to buy a new policy to ensure you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

Remember: When you inherit a home, the previous owner’s insurance policy does NOT automatically pass to you. You’ll need to have the policy rewritten under your name, or take out a new policy altogether.

What if the previous owner paid the home insurance premiums for the year up front?

Even if the previous owner paid for homeowners insurance for the year, you still need to reach out to the insurance company to let them know they died and ask what your options are for continued coverage. If the company ends up asking you to take out a completely different policy, it will refund the original policy’s unused premiums back to the estate.

Step 3: Request coverage during the probate process.

If the deceased’s estate needs to go through probate before you legally gain ownership of the house, talk to the insurance company about ensuring the home is covered in the meantime. 

You typically have a few options during the probate process — though it varies by insurer:

If you’re selling the house …

You may be able to keep the policy under the deceased owner's name and continue to pay the premiums so the house is covered until it’s sold. Otherwise, you might have to take out a new policy under the estate executor’s name.

You’ll also be required to notify the insurance company if it goes vacant, as you may need to purchase additional coverage for the added risk.

If you’re keeping the house …

You might be able to transfer the existing policy under your name so you have coverage during probate — so long as you have proof that you’re the beneficiary.

But if the house is going to be vacant during this time, you’ll likely need to take out a vacant and unoccupied home insurance policy or endorsement.

If you’re not sure what you’re doing with the house ...

You’ll likely need to take out temporary or short-term home insurance. To do so, you’ll need to provide proof that you have an insurable interest in the house.

These types of policies are typically issued in the name of the estate executor, with beneficiaries listed as additional policyholders.

Step 4: Get your new homeowners insurance policy.

You’ve completed the probate process and you officially own the home. It’s time to let the homeowners insurance company know by showing proof of ownership. From there, you can either take out a new policy for the home under your name with that same company, or else shop around for coverage and take out a new policy with a different insurance company.

We recommend shopping around for coverage and getting quotes from at least three different companies to ensure you’re getting the best coverage at the best price. Our team of licensed insurance experts at Policygenius can help you with this.

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Always buy homeowners insurance — even if you plan on selling the house

Even if you plan on selling the home, you should still have home insurance on it to ensure it’s protected until you do. If you pay for the year up front, the insurance company will reimburse you for any premiums not used when you cancel the policy after selling the house.

4 tips for anyone who inherits a home

Follow these pointers after you inherit a home to ensure it stays protected:

  • Call the insurance company ASAP. The deceased homeowner’s policy will typically only stay active for around 30 days after their death. If you don’t notify the insurance company before that, you could wind up with no coverage at all.

  • Don’t leave the house vacant. If it’s possible to have someone stay at the house temporarily until it’s sold or rented out, do it. Otherwise, the insurance company will likely require you take out a vacant home insurance policy, which can get pricey.

  • Keep paying the homeowners insurance premiums. Not paying premiums on the deceased homeowner’s policy could lead to a lapse in coverage — meaning the home isn’t protected.

  • Ask about any coverage riders on the existing policy. Some homeowners might have a mortgage life insurance policy attached to their home insurance, which means the insurance company pays the mortgage after they die.

Shirley-Gimbel-Headshot

Case study: My inherited home insurance nightmare

Shirley Gimbel, Florida homeowner

“My mother passed away in April of 2021 and my brother and I inherited her home. I knew she paid her home insurance premiums up front for the whole year, and her policy wasn’t set to expire until December. So I just assumed her house would remain covered until time of renewal and never once did I think to notify the insurance company about her death.

Well, fast-forward to November when I got a letter from her insurance company about renewing her policy. I ended up calling them to let them know she died so they could write the new policy under my name. And here’s where the nightmare began.

The insurance agent told me that I should have notified them earlier that my mother had died. And because I didn't, under their underwriting rules, the policy was canceled 30 days after her death. This meant my mother’s home had been without home insurance for the last eight months.

I was shocked. I proceeded to ask them what I needed to do to get coverage for the home reinstated, and they told me because the home hasn’t had insurance for the past eight months, they wouldn’t write a policy. 

That meant I had to shop around to find a home insurance company that would write her policy. That ended up being Citizens Property Insurance. I had to have the home inspected because of its age — it was built in 1983. And I also had a waiting period of 30 days before the policy went into effect, which was also tied to the fact that it’d been without coverage for so many months.

While I was fortunate enough that nothing happened to her home during the time it was uninsured, I learned a valuable lesson: ALWAYS contact the insurance company if you inherit a piece of property to ensure the policy stays active.”

“My mother passed away in April of 2021 and my brother and I inherited her home. I knew she paid her home insurance premiums up front for the whole year, and her policy wasn’t set to expire until December. So I just assumed her house would remain covered until time of renewal and never once did I think to notify the insurance company about her death.

Well, fast-forward to November when I got a letter from her insurance company about renewing her policy. I ended up calling them to let them know she died so they could write the new policy under my name. And here’s where the nightmare began.

The insurance agent told me that I should have notified them earlier that my mother had died. And because I didn't, under their underwriting rules, the policy was canceled 30 days after her death. This meant my mother’s home had been without home insurance for the last eight months.

I was shocked. I proceeded to ask them what I needed to do to get coverage for the home reinstated, and they told me because the home hasn’t had insurance for the past eight months, they wouldn’t write a policy. 

That meant I had to shop around to find a home insurance company that would write her policy. That ended up being Citizens Property Insurance. I had to have the home inspected because of its age — it was built in 1983. And I also had a waiting period of 30 days before the policy went into effect, which was also tied to the fact that it’d been without coverage for so many months.

While I was fortunate enough that nothing happened to her home during the time it was uninsured, I learned a valuable lesson: ALWAYS contact the insurance company if you inherit a piece of property to ensure the policy stays active.”

Frequently asked questions

Does homeowners insurance automatically get transferred to the beneficiary when someone dies?

No, you’ll need to reach out to the home insurance company to let them know the policyholder died and ask what the steps are to transfer the insurance policy to your name. If you’re the surviving spouse, you may be already listed as a policyholder, which would make transferring the existing policy to your name easy. Otherwise, you might need to take out a brand-new insurance policy.

Is a house still insured if the owner dies?

A home is typically still insured for around 30 days after the owner dies, though the exact time frame varies by company. During this time, you’ll need to reach out to the home insurance company to let them know the policyholder died and ask what your options are to continue coverage on the home. If you don’t alert the insurer within their specified time frame, they’ll likely cancel the policy.

Does homeowners insurance have to be in the name of the owner?

Yes, typically a homeowners insurance policy needs to be in the name of the owner of the house. The one exception might be if you recently inherited the home and you’re still in the probate process. Depending on the insurance company, they may agree to leave the policy in the deceased homeowner’s name until probate is complete, or else require the estate executor to take out a new home insurance policy on the house in their own name.

Author

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

Jennifer Gimbel

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

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Jennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

Expert reviewer

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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