Selling a House in Probate: Your Complete Guide
Estimated reading time 9 minutes
Probate is another example of a property-based term that can throw people into all types of confusion. Thankfully, with our guide, any questions you may have can all be answered, right here.
The sudden death of a family member can be a hard time for anyone grieving. Dealing with property and financial issues is, more often than not, the least of anyone’s worries. So should you be looking to understand more about how probate works, what is it, and more, let our guide explain it all in an easy-to-understand format. Therefore, making it much simpler to sell house fast.
What is probate?
When someone passes away, their estate must be handled correctly and in conjuncture with current law. Their estate could include such things as their home, any money or investments, any assets they held and any inheritance they planned to distribute. Probate is the legal and financial process used to deal with this and all parts of the estate.
It is used to prove that the will is valid and confirming who has the authority to administer the estate of the person who has died.
To have the process completed, somebody must be appointed as an executor, normally a family member. The appointed person then applies for what is known as a grant of probate.
What is a grant of probate?
This is an official document that confirms that the holder is legally entitled to the full handling of the estate. When granted, the property or properties can be sold, or transferred as per the instructions in the will. If no will was left, a grant of probate will not be issued but rather a grant of letters of administration. They work in the same kind of way but do have slight differences.
How many people can apply for a grant of probate?
On some wills, there is often more than just one person listed as an executor, as a result this can make who should be applying for probate a little confusing. Present rules state that up to 4 people can apply for a grant of probate on behalf of a deceased individual.
How much will it cost to apply for probate?
Probate fees vary depending on the final value of the estate. Should the estate value be in excess of £5000, you would pay £273 to apply for probate. If the estate is worth £5000 or less, there will be no fee to pay. Additional copies of the document can be made available for just £1.50 but should there be a second application where probate has already been granted, a fee of £20 applies regardless of the estate value.
Probate house sale
If a house becomes a probate property, there are a few things you will need to be fully aware of before looking to go ahead with a house sale. If you have been appointed as the executor and are handling the estate, there is a good chance that property will be involved. Whilst under probate-before probate has been granted- a house cannot be legally sold, it can though be put up for sale, have viewings conducted and go as far as having a sale price agreed with prospective buyers. The potential new inhabitants can also apply for a mortgage in principle at this stage, but nothing can go any further until probate has been granted.
If you do decide to go put the house on the market before probate has been granted, it is heavily advised that you inform all interested parties so that they are aware the process will not be completed as quickly as it could be if the property was not under probate. This is especially important as some people will be looking for a quick house move due to their chain being completed. Others will be happy to wait, especially if they are very keen on the property.
How long does a house under probate sale take?
Probate itself is normally granted within 12-14 weeks of applying for it. However, the completion of a probate property sale can take much longer. The conveyancing and actual sales process can then take place which can lead to the sale taking a very long time. It has been known to see the full completion of the sale to take as much as a year.
How to apply for probate
To apply for probate, you can do so via post or online. If you complete a postal application, you can download and print the relevant forms from the Government website and once complete, return them to the local probate office. When returning them, you will need:
- PA4P Probate application form
- The death certificate
- A completed inheritance tax form
- The original will and 3 copies
If applying online, you can complete the online form. Just ensure you have:
- The death certificate
- A completed inheritance tax form
- The original will
At present, it is claimed by the government website that probate applications are taking approximately 8 weeks to process if submitted online and significantly longer to process paper applications.
What is the probate process?
The process of probate can involve quite a lot of work but if completed properly, can be completed in a few simple processes.
- Identify all the assets of the deceased person. This could be property, possessions or investments. At the same time, investigate any liabilities such as loans, bills, or anything else that requires a form of debt. This then gives you the estate value. This stage will also allow you to verify those that are entitled to inherit anything from the will.
- The next step would be to pay any applicable inheritance tax to HMRC and completing the relevant tax return. From here you would apply for the grant of representation from the probate registry.
- Once the grant of representation has been issued, selling assets, settling debts and paying any final amounts to HMRC for income tax, capital gains tax or inheritance tax will be completed.
- Before the conclusion of the process, the preparation of all payments both in and out of the estate must be completed with a balance then shown to indicate what balance will be distributed to the beneficiaries.
- The final stage will see that as long as no challenges are raised, any assets can be transferred to the beneficiaries. Any remaining balance will then be transferred as per the will.
What should you check before a probate sale?
It is not just a case of following the steps to get probate granted when it comes to a house sale. There will be a few things related specifically to the property itself that you will need to do. This will not only help protect you from some additional costs but may also help in the sale process.
- Find out whether the now vacant property is insured. If so, you will need to find whether the current insurance provider can continue with a policy on a probate property. If a probate property is not insured, it is recommended you seek insurance. Whether seeking a new policy or looking to renew an existing one, make sure you tell the provider as property in probate may see higher costs in insurance.
- Check the safety of the property. With it being vacant, a probate property could be a lure to thieves. Visit often to check all is ok and people notice the property is visited.
- Investigate the current issues with regards to utilities. Would it be wise to disconnect them? Perhaps some are worth keeping running for viewings. If the house has become vacant during winter months, it will be a good idea to keep the heating running. This could help prevent property damage and help create a better impression when viewings take place.
- Notify the council of the property becoming vacant. No council tax will be due until you get probate. Once granted, you may be able to get an exemption for 6 months. If the property is left empty for a substantial amount of time you could be liable for a double council tax charge. You would need to speak to your local authority regarding this as it can vary across the country.
- Look at possible repairs and maintenance issues. Some may just be cosmetic, but some could be essential. As a result, there is a chance that you could see the property increase in value.
How to sell a house in probate
There are a few options open to you and depending on how quickly you want to sell or how much of the true value you would like to receive could decide the way you chose to market the probate property.
You could go the way of traditional estate agent. This is probably the most common but can be the slowest way to sell. As we mentioned above, you can get thee property listed, viewed and even agree on a price prior to the granting of probate but with everything else involved with this method. You could be waiting a very long time.
Alternatively, you could go via the route of a property auction. This can be a way to a fast house sale and can be completed in as little as 28 days in many cases. This is potentially great, however, the process of auctioning a property cannot begin until probate has been granted. There will also be fees involved which can vary per auctioneer.
Another way to sell a probate property is via a cash house buyer. This tends to be the quickest way to complete as funds are available almost at once and completion will be just as quick once probate is granted. Many, like Gaffsy operate without charging you any fees making the sale even faster.