Understanding the probate house sale process
After the death of a loved one, the probate house sale process is usually the last thing you will want to have to deal with. However, with a little help, it doesn’t need to be as complicated as many people expect.
It’s even possible to get started on the often quite lengthy process of selling the property even before you have been awarded the Grant of Probate document.
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If you’re in a position where you are expecting to get probate and want to sell a house, here is everything you need to know about the process:
What is a Grant of Probate?
A Grant of Probate is a legal document that confirms that a person named as the executor of a will has the legal right to administer the estate of a person who has died.
Even if you are named as an executor though, you don’t receive this right automatically. You need to apply for it via the Probate Registry, an official government office.
There are some circumstances where you don’t need a Grant of Probate. This is normally when there was no will and you are the next of kin. In this case, you need to apply for an equivalent document called a Grant of Letters of Administration instead.
The basic probate house sale process
The process of selling a house in probate is intertwined with some of the steps you might be familiar with if you’ve ever sold a property of your own.
On the one hand, you can’t apply for the Grant of Probate without some information you get from the property sale process. Equally, you can’t complete the sale without obtaining the Grant of Probate. This is the order in which everything tends to take place:
1) Acquire copies of the death certificate
One of the key documents that you will need multiple times during the process of selling a house in probate is the death certificate of the person who has passed away.
To obtain this, you need to register the death. It’s a smart move to order multiple copies of the certificate when you do so as it costs more to get them later.
2) Get a property valuation
Before you apply for a Grant of Probate, you need to know the value of the property in the will you are aiming to sell.
This generally requires several – usually two or three – valuations that you take the average of.
3) Check for use restrictions
Part of the process of buying property involves checking for any restrictions on property or land use.
You can find this information in the paper deeds, which may be held by the deceased’s solicitor. You or your solicitor can also check the official Land Registry.
4) Calculate and pay tax
Adding some potential awkwardness to the process is the fact that you need to pay inheritance tax owed on a property before you can obtain the Grant of Probate – and thus before you receive the money from selling it.
There are two common ways around this if the money to cover the tax is not available:
- Using the Direct Payment Scheme – allows you to use money from the estate of the person who has died to pay the tax even if you don’t have access just yet.
- Taking an executor loan – is a common choice available to plug this gap in the system
5) Apply for probate and pay fees
As a named executor of the will, once you have all of this information, you can apply for the right of probate.
Notification of this legal right will arrive in the form of that legal document called the Grant of Probate. This can take anywhere from six to fourteen weeks to arrive depending on the complexity of your case.
Can a house be sold under probate?
You cannot sell a house under probate. However, it is possible to make a start on the process. In fact, as we’ve seen, you actually need to take some action – such as getting a valuation – before you can get probate.
Do remember though that completing the sale and exchanging contracts cannot be done until you successfully apply for probate.
But as you need that valuation and the process of selling a house often takes many months anyway, you can put the property on the market and even accept an offer made on it all long before you have your Grant of Probate in hand.
Want to be sure you’re proceeding with the probate house sale process legally?
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