Can the Executor of an Estate Sell the Property?
02 March 2020
The Executor of an Estate is allowed to sell property owned by the deceased person, as long as there are no surviving joint owners or clauses in the Will that prevent selling the property.
When someone dies, the Executors named in their Will become responsible for dealing with their Estate. An Estate is the collective term for everything the deceased person owned, including their home as well as bank accounts, pensions and any other assets.
If there is property in the Estate, the Executors must decide what to do with it. This will largely be determined by the way in which the deceased owned the property. If the Executors aren't sure how the property is owned, they can find information about a property in England or Wales by searching the Land Registry website.
If a property is owned jointly with another person, there are two ways in which this can be owned. If it is owned as "joint tenants" this means that the two people own the whole property together, with neither having an identifiable share. If a property is owned with someone else as "tenants in common" this means that each person owns a specified percentage of the property.
If the person who died owned a property as joint tenants with someone else, and that person is still alive, the property will automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. In such cases the Executors don't need to do anything other than send a Deceased Joint Proprietor form to the Land Registry, along with a death certificate. This will remove the deceased person's name from the title deeds.
But if property was owned in the deceased's sole name, or jointly with someone else as tenants in common, the property (or the deceased's share in it) will pass in line with the terms of the Will. If there is no Will then this will form part of their Estate and be passed on in line with inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy.
If there is a Will, the Executors must check the terms to check if there are specific instructions regarding the property. Sometimes a Will specifies that a property, or share of a property, should be held in Trust for the beneficiaries until a certain time, or other such instructions. If so, the Executors must follow the terms of the Will.
But if the Will doesn't make any specific provisions for the property, the Executors should proceed as they see fit. Either the property will need to be transferred into the names of the Beneficiaries (as set out under the terms of the Will) or sold. If the property is sold, the proceeds will then go into the Estate to be distributed to the Beneficiaries.
Do Executors Need Permission to Sell a Property?
The Executors are responsible for the Estate, so ultimately it's up to them to decide what to do so they don't need express permission from anyone else. However, it's very important thing to know that the Executors have a duty to act in the best interests of the Beneficiaries. This means that the property shouldn't be sold if it is not in the best interests of the Beneficiaries.
The Executors should never allow any personal feelings to cloud their judgement when making these decisions, and they certainly shouldn't make decisions based on personal gain. If a Beneficiary feels that an Executor is not acting in their best interests, he/she can apply to have the Executor removed.
With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl 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.
If the property is to be sold, one thing that can cause contention between the Executors and the Beneficiaries is the sale price.
Again, the Executors of the Estate have overall authority, so can accept an offer from a potential buyer. But again, the Executors must act in the Beneficiaries’ best interests, and so have a duty to sell the property for a reasonable sum.
If the Executors sell a property for under market value, they could be accused of failing to fulfil their duty, and the beneficiaries could pursue a claim against them.
If you are the Executor of a Will, you can instruct our Probate Solicitors to deal with Probate and the administration of the deceased person’s Estate on your behalf. We can also deal with the transfer or sale of a Probate property, removing the burden from your shoulders.
With our Probate Complete Service there are no upfront costs to pay as our fees will be taken from the Estate, once it is in funds.