Many people will experience the process of buying or selling a property at some point, it is not always a straightforward process but when selling a property that is subject to probate there is added complication.
If a property is owned in the sole name or as tenants in common by someone who is deceased it cannot be sold until the deceased’s name has been removed from the deeds. In some cases, the property may be the only asset in the estate that requires probate as for most people a property is their most expensive asset.
Once probate has been obtained the conveyancing process is the same as when the owners are alive, but until then there are certain actions you should take to look after the property while it is waiting to be sold.
Securing the property
When a person lived alone it is common for the property to be left uninhabited after the pass away. When a property is left empty it is more vulnerable to break-ins and vandalism, it is important to ensure that the property is insured during this time. You should check with the insurance company whether their policy covers the property being empty and if it doesn’t arrange for some temporary insurance whilst it is subject to probate.
Precautions that you can take immediately include making a note of the items in the property and removing anything valuable for safe keeping until it can be distributed to the beneficiaries. You should also make sure any unnecessary electrical items are switch off and all of the doors and windows are secured. If possible, you should try to regularly check up on the property, if you can’t personally visit the property regularly you may wish to ask the neighbours to keep an eye on it for you.
Maintaining the property
It is in the estates and beneficiary’s bests interests to achieve a good selling price on the property therefore it would be worth considering undertaking maintenance on the property whilst it is subject to probate so that when it comes to selling it is in as good of a condition as possible. This does not need to be extensive repairs but having the property professionally cleaned or employing the services of a gardener to attend to the external appearance may prove helpful when looking for a potential buyer. A well maintained exterior may also deter potential thieves or vandals.
You should contact utility suppliers as soon as possible and arrange for them to continue to provide services to the property whilst it is subject to probate. You may be able to arrange for the bill to be settled once probate has been granted and there are liquid assets available. Alternatively, you may need to arrange for someone else most likely the executor, except for extenuating circumstances, to pay the utility suppliers until probate has been granted. If another person takes on the utility payments it is possible for the costs to be claimed back from the estate as an executor’s expense that was undertaken in order to benefit the estate and beneficiaries.
Selling a property that is subject to probate is the same process as any other house sale and you will need to go through conveyancing. One difference worth noting is that it is not uncommon for probate properties to be in a worse condition than other houses on the market, this is often because the previous owner had lived there for some time and has not or was not able to make repairs to the property or undertake renovations. Therefore the property may not be valued as highly as a similar property in the area where the owners have maintained the upkeep.
You can put the house on the market and start looking for a potential buyer whilst the property is subject to probate. It is common for the two processes to run alongside each other; however you will not be able to transfer the property over to the new buyer until probate has been granted. If there are unexpected delays during the probate process you may need to delay completion until the grant of probate is issued.
An assent is a document that is used to transfer the legal ownership of a property from the name of a deceased person into the name of a living beneficiary.
You cannot apply an assent whilst the property is subject to probate. You will still need a grant of probate in order for the property to be transferred out of the deceased’s name. An assent is not necessary if you are going to sell the property, instead of an assent you would go through conveyancing. HM land registry will require either conveyancing or an assent before changing their records to list the new owner. An Assent is done when the property is not going to be sold any time in the foreseeable future and instead is being passed onto to a beneficiary.