Tips for Selling a Property during Probate
22 May 2018
After someone dies, if they owned a home in their sole name then this will need to be either sold or transferred as part of the probate process. If the property is to be sold, here are our top tips of what will need to be done.
1. Secure the Home
If the home is empty, one of the first things you should do is ensure that it is secure. Close all doors and windows and lock these where possible. Switch off all appliances and check that there is no running water anywhere.
You should also contact the home insurance provider to let them know that the owner has died. Under some insurance policies, the death of the policyholder will terminate the policy so you’ll need to check that the home is still covered. You’ll also need to let the insurance provider know that the property is unoccupied.
2. Check the House for Valuable Items
Locate and secure any valuable items in the house. The best way is to go room by room, checking in drawers and cupboards for smaller items such as jewellery. Any items that you think may be worth a significant amount of money will need to be properly valued as these will contribute to the overall value of the Estate.
It’s important to also consider that important documents could be very valuable, such as policy documents, Wills, bonds and share certificates. Most importantly, try to locate the property Deeds and keep these in a safe place. If the property was owned by the deceased for several decades then the Title may not have been registered at HM Land Registry. If this is the case then the property Deeds will be the only proof of ownership and these will be needed in order to sell the property.
It’s a good idea to remove valuable items from the home where possible to reduce the risk of theft.
3. Inform Organisations of the Owner’s Death
Get in touch with the local council to let them know that the person has died and also inform them that the property is empty. Some local councils offer discounted council tax rates for unoccupied homes. They will also need a correspondence address to send any outstanding and future bills to.
Similarly, you will also need to contact utility providers such as water, gas and electric. Don’t forget to also get in touch with internet and phone providers if applicable.
4. Get the Property Valued
Get a professional probate valuation of the property from local estate agents. It is important to obtain a valuation for Probate purposes. This valuation must be backdated to the date of death. It’s a good idea to get 2 or 3 separate valuations to obtain a more accurate figure.
You will need to add the property value to the total value of the house’s contents and then add this to the value of any other assets (such as shares, bank account contents, etc.) Then deduct any liabilities (debts) that were outstanding on the Estate at the date of death to calculate how much the Estate is worth.
5. Calculate and Pay Inheritance Tax
Once you know the value of the Estate, you’ll need to work out whether Inheritance Tax is due. This is a complicated process as Inheritance Tax liability varies depending on a number of factors such as who will be inheriting from the Estate and whether the deceased was married to someone who died before them.
For more information see probate and inheritance tax.
Once you have calculated the Inheritance Tax liability and submitted the necessary forms, any Inheritance Tax that is due will need to be paid.
With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.
*We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.
6. Apply for the Grant of Probate
The grant of probate is a legal document which gives a specified person the legal authority to deal with a deceased person’s affairs. The sale of the property will not be able to complete until the Grant of Probate has been issued.
As part of the application for the Grant of Probate, you will need to provide the receipt from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) which confirms that the Inheritance Tax has been paid, or their confirmation that no Inheritance Tax is due.
7. Instruct an Estate Agent and Prepare the House for Viewings
While you’re awaiting the Grant of Probate, you can put the property on the market. You may want to give the house some TLC before the estate agent takes the property photographs, but certainly before any viewings take place. This might include clearing out any junk, tidying the garden and even giving it a quick lick of paint.
When preparing for viewings, you may want to air the property out, give everything a clean, run the heating and maybe even buy some flowers!
On average it takes 3 to 6 months for the Grant of Probate to be issued and can take longer for more complex Estates. The property can be marketed while the Grant of Probate is being awaited, but the sale of the property will not be able to complete without this. For this reason it’s important to apply for Probate early on to avoid potential delays with the property sale further down the line.
8. Instruct a Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor
Once the property is on the market, you should start thinking about which Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor you would like to instruct. It’s a good idea to have this in place ready for when you accept an offer on the property, so that things can start moving forward at this point.
9. Clear the Property
Once a sale has been agreed on the property, you should start to clear out the contents. On average, Conveyancing usually takes around 8 to 12 weeks, but it can be significantly longer or shorter depending on the circumstances. You can use this time to get the property ready for completion.
If there are unwanted items that don’t hold any value, you may want to consider donating these to charity. There are various organisations that are always grateful for donations of furniture, crockery and other bits and pieces. Alternatively, you could instruct a house clearance company to come and take everything away. Some may charge for this service while others offer this for free as they then sell on the contents.
With our Probate Complete Service, we can take care of a lot of these matters for you. If you instruct us to complete Probate on the Estate then our service would include calculating and arranging to pay the Inheritance Tax, applying for the Grant and Probate and instructing estate agents and Conveyancers on your behalf.
For more information see When Does the Inheritance Tax Have to be Paid?