Preparing to sell

Selling a house in probate

4 min read

Selling a house in probate can be more complex and time consuming than a standard sale, as you need to wait for probate to be granted. Here we look at what a probate sale means, the steps to selling a house in probate and answer some FAQs.

  • Abigail Bolton Senior Digital Website and Content Marketing Executive
    Abigail Bolton

    SEO Specialist and Senior Copywriter

    Published May 21st 2024

couple looking at how selling a house in probate works

What does a probate sale mean?

A probate sale is the sale of property after a persons’ death. When a person passes away, their estate and belongings get passed down, either as outlined in the will, or, in line with the rules of intestacy. However, to gain authority to legally sell or change ownership of the item’s persons estate, you must go through probate.

How do you sell a house in probate?

The actual process of selling a house remains the same, however, you will have to go through additional steps as part of the probate process. The steps involved of selling a house in probate are:

Get a valuation

You first need to get a valuation so you know roughly how much the property, and therefore the estate, is worth. This needs to be done first as you need to know this information before applying for probate.

It’s worthwhile getting a few different valuations and using the average value in your probate application.

Apply for probate

If there was a will, the executor must apply for grant of probate which will provide them with the legal authority to sell any assets, such as property. If there was no will, the next of kin can apply for a grant of letters of administration, which will give them the same legal authority to sell any assets.

Find out more about the probate process and how to apply for probate.

Pay inheritance tax

Before probate can be granted, you must pay any inheritance tax owed. Inheritance tax is payable on estates valued over £325,000. Find out more about inheritance tax.

Put the property on the market

You may need to perform some maintenance work to get the property ready for sale, or you may want to sell it as it is, either way, the next step is to get the property on the market.

You can put the property on the market before probate is granted, however, if you do this it’s important that you let your estate agent and conveyancer know, as this will affect the timelines for them and potential buyers.

Instruct a conveyancer

Your conveyancer will start off by checking the title and deeds of the property to ensure everything is as it should be. These checks will highlight if there are any restrictions on the property or land, or if there are any outstanding monies owed against the house, such as a mortgage.

Go through the conveyancing process

Once you have accepted an offer, you will then go through the standard conveyancing process to transfer ownership to the new buyer, however, the process is likely to take longer.

You should bear in mind that you’re not able to exchange contracts or complete until you have the grant of probate or the grant of letters of administration. Additionally, if the buyer or the buyer’s conveyancer has any enquiries that you cannot answer, this may causes delays and you may need to get indemnity insurance to protect the buyer against legal action in the future.

After the sale has completed

Once the sale has gone through, the money is added to the estate for distribution amongst the beneficiaries.

Selling a house in probate FAQs

Can you sell before probate is granted?

In most cases no, only once probate has been granted can the exchange of contracts and completion happen. This is because the executor does not have legal authority to sell any of the deceased’s assets before they have grant of probate or grant of letters of administration.

Can you put a house on the market before probate is granted?

Yes, you can put a house on the market before you have grant of probate, however it’s important that everyone in the process knows that the property in being sold in probate as it can affect the timescales.

How easy is it to sell a probate home?

Selling a home in general can be a complex and time-consuming process, so it is usually made more complicated when the property is in probate. Complications could arise if:

  • There are delays getting the grant of probate – for example, there are backlogs, or if you are asked to provide more information.

  • There are disagreements between executors or beneficiaries – for example, if some executors or beneficiaries want to sell and others do not, or if there are disagreements with the asking price.

  • You are unable to answer enquiries for the buyers – for example, if there are missing documents such as FENSA certificates.

How can you speed up the process of selling a house in probate?

Although for the most there won’t be much you can do to speed up the timings, you may save a bit of time, here and there by doing the below:

  • Check the property’s details – you can use the Land Registry website to check the title deeds of the property. A conveyancer can check over these to see if there are any issues, or anything you were unaware of, such as an outstanding mortgage, or unknown people with shares in the property. If the property isn’t registered online, you will have to submit the original deeds to the Land Registry. Therefore. finding this out as soon as possible will help speed up the process.

  • Keep the sale chain-free - as the sale of this property doesn’t reply on the purchase of another, you could look for first-time buyers or investors to help keep the transaction chain-free as this may speed up the process once probate has been granted.

  • Keep the property well maintained – clearing the house and keeping it well maintained should help to attract buyers.

  • Communicate with the beneficiaries – although only the executors need to all agree to sell the property, the beneficiaries could still cause delays if there are any disagreements. Therefore, speaking with everyone as early on in the process as possible, will allow them to have their say, while helping to avoid delays further down the line.

  • Home insurance – while this won’t necessarily help speed up the process, it will protect you against any damages, thefts or liability issues for the property while in your care. If something were to happen, an invalid insurance claim could potentially slow down the process.

  • Paying for indemnity insurance – if you are unable to provide answers to enquiries from the buyers and their conveyancers, they may ask you to pay for indemnity insurance. While this will be an extra cost, getting the insurance could help to speed up the process and avoid disagreements within the chain.

Can you sell a house that was owned as joint tenants?

If a property is owned via joint tenants, after the death of an owner, ownership automatically goes to the other owner/s. This means they can sell the property without getting grant of probate as it will already be in their name/s.

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