Selling a House After the Owner has Died

12 October 2017

If the deceased person was the sole owner of a property in England or Wales, then a grant of probate is required to sell that property.

The grant of probate names the person or company who has the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s assets (everything they own) and includes the legal authority to enter into and sign contracts on behalf of the estate; such as the contract to sell a house.

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*.

Selling the Property

In general terms, the people named on the Grant of Probate are known as the personal representatives (if a person is named in a Will they are known as an executor (Executrix).

The personal representative or executor can put the property on the market before the grant of probate is issued, but the grant must be in place in order to exchange contracts and execute the relevant Land Registry document which transfers the property’s title.

Please note that any powers of attorney granted during the lifetime of the deceased, ends on their death, so this does not allow you to sell the property.

The person/company named on the grant of probate is under an obligation to sell the property for the open market value. Therefore, if the property is sold for less than the full market price a beneficiary can look to the person named on the grant for the difference in value.

It is recommended that you obtain two estate agent valuations, these should reflect the value of the property as at the date the owner died, rather than actual selling price. If there is more than 10% discrepancy between the two valuations then it would be a good idea to get a third valuation in order to clarify the picture.

Proceed with Caution

It is sometimes the case that there are third party interests in the property which the beneficiaries are not aware of. This can be a mortgage, equity release charges or another person is actually on the property title and entitled to the whole of the property regardless of what the will or intestacy rules state.

On a registered property title legal charges should be noted and easy to spot but for unregistered property titles an inspection of the title deeds is required.

Please be careful when clearing out the contents of a property (even the garden shed), it’s quite common for unregistered title deeds to be thrown out with other items but the deeds are vital to proving the property’s ownership. If in doubt about any documents keep them safe. Should there be no evidence of ownership the estate may end up paying a Solicitor or Conveyancer to re-constitute the title which can be a timely and costly process.

You may also wish to consider the property’s insurance, most insurance policies contain a clause relating to what happens when the property is left unoccupied for a specific term. You should make sure the property is secure, and contact the insurance provider to update them on the situation and discuss the options available.

Contract of Sale and Property Transfer

In terms of the contract of sale and the property transfer form (required to transfer the property into someone else’s name), it is usual practice for the title to be sold with limited title guarantee. This does not mean the class of title is affected when the buyer is registered, as the new owner, it simply means that the seller has no personal knowledge of the property which is a common stance for personal erepresentatives or Executors. It also means that you may not be able to complete the usual protocol forms associated with a sale.

* 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.

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