What can you do if the previous owner of the home you just purchased dies in the home 1 day after the sale closes?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can you do if the previous owner of the home you just purchased dies in the home 1 day after the sale closes?

My father purchased a home in Riverside, CA. Literally the day after escrow closed and the sale was final, the original owner passed away in the garage, due to ‘something heavy falling on him’. My father wasn’t notified until two days later, mind you.When my father went to the home two days later, he noticed a ‘trap door’ type thing looked broken and he seemed to think that could’ve been what killed the original owner. My question is, what legal steps can be made if he no longer feels comfortable buying the home? Is there anything we can do at this point?

Asked on November 14, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The person with whom he has the contract is now dead; that legally terminates the contract (unless there was a co-owner who is still alive), since a dead person cannot transfer title or perform a contract. Even if his estate wants to go forward with the sale, the estate is a different legal person--your father does not need to contract with them. Your father should contact the seller's attorney, if he had one, or his realtor, if not, letting him know that because the other party to the contract passed away, the contract is terminated and that your father has to get the escrow back. Call first as a heads up, but follow up in writing, with a letter sent some way your father can prove delivery. Note that if the estate refuses to release the escrow or acknowledge the termination of the contract, your father may have to sue to get the money ack, etc., but should be on good grounds to do so.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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