The process of selling a probate property is one we assist with when required, and as seasoned estate agents, we can offer individuals in this position guidance on the process.
Navigating the overall probate process can be challenging and managing the sale of property alongside other elements may seem overwhelming.
In this blog, we highlight the key points to consider when selling a probate property and the appropriate steps to take, to provide clarity and assurance.
What does probate mean?
Probate is the entire process of administering a person’s estate after they have passed away.
If there is a will in place then the named executors will apply for probate. In the instance that there is not a will then the closest living relative would apply.
The government advises that executors should not make financial plans or attempt to sell a property until probate is granted.
How the Probate Process Works
If you are a seller or a buyer of a probate property it is useful to know how the probate process works.
Whoever is named as an executor in the will of the deceased can apply for a grant of probate.
If the deceased person did not leave a will the process is instead known as obtaining a grant of letters of administration (similar to probate).
If the deceased person owned property jointly with others, then ownership automatically passes to them so probate may not be needed for those assets.
Executors and administrators can apply for probate themselves or instruct a probate solicitor to conduct the process.
Probate can be applied for either online or by postal application to a Probate Registry.
You will require the original death certificate and the deceased will. For more information see here.
Before probate can be granted you will need to get a market appraisal and valuation from a reputable estate agency.
Once you have all the necessary information and supporting documents you can apply for a grant of probate.
Applying for probate yourself?
You can apply for probate yourself however forms can be time consuming and complicated.
As the estate agent, Horton and Garton recommend all potential clients to use the services of a trusted solicitor who has relevant experience and a full understanding of the probate process.
Inheritance Tax calculations can be complex, and it is important to complete and submit the application correctly.
Inheritance Tax is payable within six months from the date of death, after which interest starts accruing on the outstanding tax. Delays in the Probate process can cause cash flow problems in funding this tax.
There is a high error rate in the forms submitted to HMRC.
Not providing all the information that is required opens a possible HMRC enquiry.
In this circumstance the law applies to you in the same way that it applies to a solicitor acting on behalf of an estate – failure to comply with the law and your duties under it can have serious consequences.
How long does it take to sell a house through probate?
The length of time it will take probate to be progressed varies across different local authorities and due to the complexity of the estate.
Once the probate is granted the sale of the property can take place relatively swiftly, at a pace of a regular property sale.
How best to market a probate sale property?
An estate agent’s advice will usually be to clear any personal fixtures, fittings and remove all contents from the property including the loft spaces, cellars, garages, and garden sheds.
In some cases it might be appropriate to arrange for a professional clean (especially the windows).
If there is a garden, make sure that access to all outside spaces is possible and any overgrown garden is cut back. Ensure any rubbish or items are removed from the front garden.
From a security perspective leave some timer lights at the property, change the locks, and leave curtains in the front rooms.
For the discreet seller, it is not always necessary for a For Sale board outside the property.
If possible, provide the agent with some property notes, though these might be sparse given the circumstances, any information beyond the basics will likely prove useful to a prospective buyer.
Valuing a probate property
The valuation of a probate property is important as it is usually one of the most highly valued assets in any estate.
Gaining a formal written valuation from an estate agent can make the elements of the process that involve the HMRC regarding inheritance tax (IHT) more straightforward,
Whilst an executor can value a property themselves for the purposes of a probate, should the HMRC deem the valuation to be too low they will challenge the figures and this will likely cause delays.
Can an executor sell a house during probate?
You can legally appoint an estate agent, list and market for sale, conduct viewings, agree to a sale price with a prospective buyer and conduct other preparatory conveyance work.
The buyer can apply for a mortgage, arrange a survey before the probate process is completed.
You cannot legally complete on the property sale before the Grant of Probate is provided to your solicitor.
Selling a probate property with Horton and Garton
Working closely with those who need our help at what can be a difficult time, we understand there can be delicate scenarios where guidance from seasoned local professionals can be of benefit.
If you’d like to discuss a property sale with our team please do get in touch, without obligation on 020 8819 0510.