Buying a house is an exciting and sometimes slightly terrifying experience in many people’s lives. If you’ve never bought a house before, the process can be daunting. It’s fairly overwhelming to say the least!
However, owning a home is a big part of the American dream. Once you close on the home and get settled in, things will start to level out until you reach your new normal as a homeowner.
When buying a home, most people focus on the details of the house buying transaction which of course you’ve got to do. What type of house do we want and how can we get the best deal on a mortgage and homeowner’s insurance?
While these factors are definitely important, there are two other financial aspects most people completely ignore during the homebuying process. They are:
- Making sure you’re properly insured with life insurance
- Making sure your estate planning is properly covered with a trust or will
How life changes when you buy a house
When you become a homeowner, your life changes in fairly substantial ways. First and foremost, as a homeowner, you now have to make a monthly mortgage payment or you could face foreclosure.
But there’s more, of course!
You have to consider all your home’s expenses
You also have to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and potentially even HOA fees depending on where you live.
And then you’ve got to pay to maintain and update your home over time. It’s not just the roof, it’s the humidifier, the garbage disposal, the hot water heater. The list goes on and the budget is never-ending.
You’ll need a backup plan in case of emergency
Since owning a home can be a very expensive process, you simply have to plan to come up with a backup plan in case life throws you an unexpected twist. After all, you don’t want to lose your house because you couldn’t make a mortgage payment due to unexpected circumstances.
I’m a big fan of emergency funds for obvious reasons to make sure that unexpected twists don’t cause you crazy havoc. Your emergency fund may be essentially for home repairs as those things usually have to be done pretty much right away.
It’s so not like buying a new couch…
How life insurance needs change as a homeowner
As a homeowner, your life insurance needs will have change and here’s how:
- If you bought life insurance previous to buying a home, your new home expenses might mean you need more life insurance.
- If you didn’t have life insurance before owning a home, you may need it after you own a home.
But the question is, why would you need more life insurance?
Losing one person’s income could mean the loss of your home
If you or your spouse pass away, the first and primary thing you’re going to want to check is whether the mortgage payments are going to be reachable with the loss of income. As you know, most people qualify for a mortgage based on household income so your household income could way drastically drop with a death.
Bottom line: Without the same level of income, you or your spouse may struggle to make the mortgage payment each month.
I was interested to find out recently that for a relatively small cost, you can purchase enough life insurance to pay off your mortgage in full should you pass away. Similarly, you probably want your spouse to get at least enough life insurance to pay off the mortgage as well.
This way, if either of you dies, the other could pay the mortgage off.
If you already have enough life insurance, make sure to update the beneficiaries on your policy. If you’ve recently divorced or remarried, an update is most likely needed to make sure the correct person receives the money needed to pay the mortgage payment.
You may be able to save money by bundling insurance products
One way you could potentially save money on your insurance products is bundling. When you have multiple insurance policies with the same insurer, they most often offer a discount. As a homeowner, you may be able to bundle homeowners, life and other insurances you have to start saving even more money today.
Why you should update your will or trust as a homeowner
Your home gets passed on to your family
Homeownership adds another layer of complexity to your estate as well and you are highly advised to consider getting your estate in order at this point too. This way, assets will pass to who you want them to, not who the courts decide they go to.
And this, of course, includes your home. And not surprisingly, laws vary wildly from state to state when it comes to what happens to property after your death.
Family is complex
Depending on how you purchased your home and your other family circumstances, things get tricky if you pass away without a trust or will. Others might object to using the word tricky, but whatever word you choose here, it’s mighty complicated.
If you purchased a home by yourself without putting your spouse on the mortgage or the home deed, what you’ve got to know is that your spouse technically doesn’t own the home at all.
Only you do.
When you consider the complicated relationships of many families today, it’s easy to see why things often get complex. Many families end up dealing with divorces, remarriages, and children from other marriages. With all of these variables, who gets the house after you pass away would be left up to the courts unless you have a trust or will.
And in general, if you’re asking the question whether you need a will or not, the answer is that usually that yes – in fact – you do.