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What Happens to Your House When You Go to Jail

what happens to your house when you go to jail

When you get incarcerated, you won’t be able to access your bank accounts and other personal belongings. So what happens to your house, among other things? In this article, we provide an overview of what might happen to your house and other assets when you end up behind bars. We also discuss ways to keep them secure. Read on!

The Quick Answer 

Your house will still belong to you as long as you or someone you trust can manage your finances and assets. The answer gets a bit complex depending on your specific situation and what assets you want to control even in prison. This is true for laws across countries like the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. Read on for the long take. 

What Happens to Your Assets 

Authorities might and will seize assets that are used as evidence or are connected to the crime committed — this process is called civil asset forfeiture. However, they won’t seize any other property not related to the crime.

As a result, you can put your personal belongings and other assets in storage until you get out of prison. Alternatively, you can entrust them to someone who can take care of them while you’re inside. For a house, you can sell it, rent it out, or let a family member live in it while you’re serving time. You may even leave your house unoccupied. This is the most likely outcome for what happens to your home when you do go to jail.

In other instances, the arresting agency might take custody of your house for safekeeping until you get out. However, this depends on your circumstances and ability to pay bills while behind bars. Meanwhile, if you terminate the house or lease agreement, you must pay penalties and face the risk of being homeless when you’re released.

If you put your other assets in a storage facility, you still have to pay the bills associated with the storage unit, rent, mortgage, and taxes. And when you’re behind bars, paying these bills can get tricky. 

What Happens to Your Bills 

Even if someone else looks after your possessions while you’re in prison, you’ll still have to pay for bills. Automatic withdrawals can drain your account, while credit card bills your pay manually can default and end up in collections, ruining your credit score.

Moreover, even if you don’t have recurring payments, many banks often freeze accounts that don’t have any activity within six to 12 months. Government authorities can also freeze your bank accounts if they believe you’ve financially benefitted from the crime. 

Access to Money

You won’t be able to access regular accounts while in jail, but you may access a prison trust account. This is set up by the state or provincial authorities and allows you to make purchases from approved catalogs. A person from the outside can send money from your regular account to this prison trust, and you can use that money. 

However, keep in mind that rules for such prison accounts vary by prison. Check with your prison to learn their specific rules in operating such accounts. 

What Lawyers Say 

Because of the reasons above, lawyers advise taking care of your house and assets before you end up behind bars. If you’re convicted, your lawyer can ask the judge for a report custody date so you know how much time you have left to take care of your affairs. 

While you can authorize a family member to handle your assets, they’re not legally required to give your assets back when you’re released unless you create a legally binding agreement first. You can also give someone the legal authority to act on your behalf but limit his/her control over your possessions. 

If you have a ton of assets, it’s wise to put them into trust and give power of attorney to a trusted person or a financial professional. 

If You’re On Remand 

For people in the UK, being on remand — where you’re held in custody while awaiting trial or sentencing — you can get Housing Benefits to pay for your home for 52 weeks as long as:

  • You’re expected to pay rent for the house and are on benefit before being imprisoned
  • You’re not expected to be in prison for longer than 52 weeks 
  • There’s no one else living in your home who could claim housing benefits to pay rent
  • You intend to go back to the house when you leave prison 

To acquire housing benefits, you must send the Notification of Remand in Custody form to the local council’s housing benefit office within 14 days of going into custody. The council has discretionary powers to extend this period in extraordinary circumstances. 

What Happens to Your Assets in the Event of Death? 

The prison often grants the person a will if they see the person’s health is deteriorating. However, if the person doesn’t have any spouse or children, the government will pass the property to the person’s closest living relative.

If the person dies before writing a will, the death is considered intestate. Individual states or provinces have their own rules and protocols for intestacy asset distribution. However, the prison often notifies the person’s designated contact or next of kin.

If the deceased has a family, the assets will be distributed among the children, descendants, and the spouse, who will receive a preferential amount. If the person was married by common law, the spouse might apply for assets if they’ve lived with the deceased for several years or longer.

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