How to Sell a Probate Property
Selling a Probate property is very similar to selling any other type of residential property. The main difference is that you cannot complete the sale until a Grant has been obtained from the Probate Registry.
What happens to a deceased person’s property?
When someone dies, those left behind might wonder what happens to the deceased’s property. The answer depends on whether there are any surviving joint owners. If the property was owned as joint tenants – and a joint owner is still alive – then the matter is straightforward: the property passes to the joint owner under the Rule of Survivorship. This happens automatically. There is no need for any paperwork, although the deceased’s name should be removed from the mortgage and the title register. The surviving owner can choose to sell the property if he or she wishes, but it will be a regular sale, as opposed to a probate property sale.
If the property was owned in the deceased’s sole name or as tenants in common, then the property will form part of the deceased’s estate. It will effectively remain frozen until a Grant of Representation has been obtained from the Probate Registry. After this, it can either be transferred to one or more beneficiaries, or it can be sold. If there is a Will, then the Executors named in the Will are responsible for getting a Grant. If there isn’t a Will, then this duty usually falls to the deceased’s next of kin. For the purposes of Probate, this person is known as the ‘Administrator’.
Selling a deceased person’s property
Where property forms part of a deceased person’s estate, the Executors or Administrator must decide what to do with it. It does not necessarily have to be sold. Instead, it can be transferred to the deceased’s beneficiaries. This is known as an ‘assent’ and still requires a Grant of Representation. Sometimes, the deceased will have left specific instructions in the Will. For instance, he/she may stipulate that their spouse can remain living in the property for the rest of their life, thereby forbidding an immediate sale. However, the Executors or Administrator may prefer to get rid of the property, rather than transfer it to the beneficiaries. This might happen if:
- The beneficiaries do not want to take on ownership of the property
- The deceased had debts and the property sale is needed to clear these liabilities
- Without the property sale, there is not enough money in the estate to pay the Inheritance Tax bill and/or fulfil the legacies in the Will
- The deceased requested that it be sold in their Will
Where a property is being sold during the Probate process, it is known as a ‘Probate property’ or a ‘Probate sale’.
Selling a Probate property
Selling a Probate property is a little different to selling a residential property. This is because the sale cannot be completed until a Grant of Representation has been obtained. Even so, the Executors or Administrator can put the property on the market, conduct viewings and accept an offer. The conveyancing process can also begin, and the prospective buyers can carry out the required searches and surveys, should they want to. In theory, you could go so far as to exchange contracts, but this is not best practice. This is because no one knows when the sale will complete, as it is at the mercy of the Probate process. Once the Grant of Representation has been issued, the sale can be completed.
Probate properties are often an attractive proposition to prospective buyers as there is no onward chain. Nevertheless, some may be concerned about potential delays and the lack of a definite timeline. It is very hard to say how long it takes to get a Grant of Representation. It all depends on how quickly the Executors/Administrators act, and whether the Probate Registry raises any queries or identifies any errors in the application. Executors and Administrators can always ask a Probate solicitor to manage the process for them. This can help to speed things up and reduces the risk of mistakes being made.
Other things to know
While you are waiting for a Grant of Representation to be issued, it is important to remember that the Executors/Administrators are responsible for the property. This means that you must keep it safe and secure. You must also check that the necessary home insurance is in place. Although the deceased may have had an insurance policy, this may have become void if the property is now standing empty.
Those dealing with the administration of the estate must also act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. If you sell the property for below market value then you could face repercussions.
Speak to our Sunderland solicitors
If Probate is needed following your loved one’s death, contact us for expert legal support. We can manage the process from start to finish, including the sale of any Probate property. To find out more, please call us on 0191 567 7244 and we’ll be happy to help you.
If you would rather contact us online, email us at email@example.com and one of our team will be in contact with you shortly.