When a deceased relative leaves real property behind, the local taxing authority will continue to assess property taxes. If no one pays these taxes, the taxing authority can put a lien on the property and eventually foreclose. Depending on the deceased person's estate plan, either a trustee or estate administrator may be responsible for continuing property tax payments.
If real property is in a trust when the owner dies, the trust documents should make provisions for the payment of the mortgage and/or property taxes until the property passes to an heir. After the heir takes legal possession of the property, she becomes responsible for the property taxes. However, some heirs choose to sell inherited homes instead of assuming responsibility for these expenses.
When real property isn't held in a trust, it will typically become a part of the probated estate. During this time, the estate's representative should continue to pay the property taxes and any mortgages until the property passes to an heir, as long as the deceased person's estate is large enough to cover the property bills. If the deceased person's estate isn't sufficient, heirs or other relatives may choose to pay these bills, or they may allow the taxing authority to place a lien on the property.
If real property secures a mortgage, the lender may have required the deceased person to maintain an escrow account for the purpose of paying property taxes. In such cases, as long as someone continues to pay the mortgage, the lender will pay the property taxes. If the mortgage goes into default, the lender may continue to pay property taxes to protect his claim on the property in foreclosure.
Most states allow homeowners to claim certain property tax exemptions. If the owner of a home dies, states often allow relatives or estate representatives to continue to file for these exemptions for a limited period of time. After an heir takes possession of the home, he may be able to file for these exemptions himself as long as he meets the requirements. If you were not an owner of your deceased relative's home or a cosigner on the loan, you are not liable for property taxes and no one can force you to pay them.
Amanda McMullen is a freelancer who has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics and a second bachelor's degree in integrated mathematics education.