Can you sell a house before probate?
Explaining the basics of probate, how long it takes to sell a house through probate and answering the all-important 'can you sell a house before probate'...
Losing a family member or friend is a stressful and upsetting time as it is.
Never mind throwing in the stress of having to sell their house and go through the lengthy probate process.
With the house acting as a constant sad reminder, it’s no surprise we tend to want to sell the house as fast as possible, leading you to think of ways to make the process faster until you eventually wonder whether or not you need to wait for probate in order to sell.
So, can you sell a house before probate? Is this the sneaky shortcut that will help to speed the process along?
Let us answer that for you…
As well as giving you the answer you’re looking for, we’re also going to talk you through what exactly probate is, how long it takes to sell a house through probate AND the common problems you may face when looking to sell a house before probate.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal and financial process in dealing with the property, money and assets of someone who has passed away. Before the ‘next of kin’ or executor named in the will can claim, sell, distribute or transfer any of the assets, they will likely have to apply for probate.
The Grant of Probate is an official legal document that executors of the will, will be granted before they’re able to take control of the assets. If there is no will, the official document will be called the Grant of Letters of Administration and will be granted to close family members.
This legal document acts as a confirmation of an individual’s legitimacy to take control of the estate. This will allow this individual to sign contracts on behalf of the estate, for example, the contract to sell a house.
When is probate not required?
Whether or not you will need to apply for probate depends on the financial position of the person who has died, at the time of their death.
Probate may also not be required if the person who has passed away was a joint landowner with yourself, you were joint tenants on a property, or you both jointly owned shares and/or money. In these situations, it’s more than likely the assets will automatically pass onto you, without the need for probate.
What is the probate process?
Before this article, you may never have heard of probate before, and we’ve already thrown loads of information about it at you. To help you thoroughly understand what probate is, we’re going to talk you through the process, helping you get to grips with each step along the way:
Step 1 involves identifying all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Put simply, assets are all the ‘things’ the deceased owned before passing away, including property, money, shares, etc, and liabilities are all the debts that were owed, including loans, utility bills, etc.
This will be done by specialist wills and probate solicitors.
Once you have established all of their belongings, you’re able to calculate the value of the estate. This is important as if it’s over a certain threshold you will have to pay Inheritance Tax – more on that a little later on.
On top of looking at assets and liabilities, a probate solicitor will also look at who is entitled to the assets, through either looking at any Will which has been left or referring to Intestacy Laws if there isn’t a will.
The next step is arranging the payment of Inheritance Tax if the value of assets is above the threshold. It’s important to note that even if you’re not required to pay Inheritance Tax, you will need to submit an Inheritance Tax return to avoid facing a penalty.
Your solicitor will also apply to the Probate Register for the Grant of Representation, which proves they have a legal responsibility to deal with the deceased’s estate.
Now, you wait.
And after waiting, you should be given the Grant of Representation and you can now go on to sell the deceased assets if that’s what you wish to do. You can also settle any liabilities if you have enough money to cover these.
Nearly at the end now!
Your solicitor will draw up a statement of accounts, which will list all payments both in and out of the estate. At this point, any money left will be listed to be split amongst the beneficiaries.
At this stage, the estate accounts will be sent to all executors for final approval.
The final step – woo!
Before any of the assets can be distributed, there will be a final check that there haven’t been any challenges to the estate. If there haven’t, then all assets will be transferred and split amongst the beneficiaries.
How long does it take to sell a house through probate?
There’s no definite answer as to how long it takes to sell a house through probate, but this report suggests it can take between 12 to 14 weeks for probate to be granted.
That’s not including the length of time it will then take to sell the house on the market, which can be MONTHS, sometimes longer…
According to Help and Advice, probate can take 6 months to a year and then you have to try to sell the house, meaning you could be looking at well over a year from applying for probate to completing the house sale.
'Why does the process take so long?'
You may be able to answer that question yourself after seeing what selling a house that needs probate entails…
Selling a house that needs probate
As an executor of the will and having the Grant of Letters of Administration, it’s your responsibility to manage the estate correctly.
Before being able to sell or distribute any assets, you may need to liquidate the assets or pay any Inheritance Tax which is due (we told you we'd come back to this!).
In order to know how much Inheritance Tax you need to pay; you must first be aware of the value of the property you wish to sell.
Get in contact with at least three different qualified estate agents so they can give you valuations on what they feel the property is worth.
We say three different estate agents as this is recommended by The Revenue Office.
It’s also important you tell the estate agents the house is in a probate sale, so they can consider what buyers will be expecting when they give a valuation.
In most cases, the value of the property makes up the majority of the total value of the estate.
If the value of the estate is over £325,000 then you will have to pay Inheritance Tax before you’re able to gain access to the assets.
Inheritance tax is charged at a rate of 40%.
You will only pay inheritance tax on the amount over the £325k threshold.
It’s important to note that once you actually get probate and sell the property, you will have to pay capital gains tax on the profit made through selling.
You will not be able to exchange or complete a sale until you are given the Grant of Probate, which is why the ‘selling a house that needs probate’ process can take well over a year.
Can you sell a house before probate?
Technically the answer to ‘can you sell a house before probate’ is yes, yes you can.
Although you will need probate to exchange and complete, nothing is stopping you from listing your house on the market and accepting any offers, if you get them, before being given the Grant of Probate.
However, there are some situations where the answer to the ‘can you sell a house before probate’ is simply yes, with these situations not requiring probate.
‘What sort of situation is that?’ you ask.
If the deceased had a partner/spouse with who they jointly owned the property and their name appears on the title deeds, the property can be sold, if that’s what the surviving partner desires.
As we mentioned earlier, if the deceased was a joint tenant, meaning none of the joint tenants involved owned a specific share of the property, then the property is automatically transferred to the surviving joint tenant, meaning no probate is needed if it’s sold.
This differs from tenants in common, where each tenant in common owns a specific share of the property, so the deceased’s share will pass onto the person who is entitled to it according to the will, or Rules of Intestacy if there’s no will.
This means probate will be required.
What are the problems with selling a house before probate?
Selling a house is never straightforward and always comes with problems.
Selling a house through probate is no different, coming with your standard selling house problems as well as the fact the house is going through probate.
Want to prepare yourself for any potential problems you may face? Look no further…
You have the responsibility of maintaining the property before AND after probate is granted.
This may mean you have expenses if anything needs fixing, as well as using up your time doing general upkeep and cleaning
Selling a probate property can create a financial issue, as you will need to pay out probate fees, Inheritance Tax, maintenance costs, etc out of your own pocket before you can even get probate and claim the estate.
There’s also no guarantee there will be enough in the estate to cover these outgoings once you have been granted probate
The selling of a probate property process involves a lot more bureaucracy compared to a normal property sale.
We know your eyebrows may have raised at the word ‘bureaucracy’ so let us fill you in – bureaucracy is a very complex administrative procedure, making the selling probate property procedure just that extra bit more complicated
Once granted probate, you need to put your house on the market and wait for it to sell.
There’s no guarantee how quickly it will sell, with most probate properties taking a while to sell. The whole selling process will feel even longer as you may have just had to wait 6 months in order to get probate – a long time, we know.
By this point, you will just want to get the house sold as quickly as you can…
We know what it’s like to be in a stressful situation, especially when the situation can be sudden.
Most people, once they’ve gone through the long process of probate, will want to just sell the house as quickly as they can – after all the property acts as a sad reminder.
Here at The Property Buying Company, we understand how hard this situation can be and we’re here to try to make it that little bit easier for you, where possible.
We’re a cash buyer of houses, specialising in a quick sale – ideal after the lengthy probate process.
Not only are we a quick cash buyer, but we also cover all the fees for you, leaving you without a single penny to pay and our cash offer in full in your bank, just what you need after paying probate fees, Inheritance Tax and more.
Another bonus, the fact we can buy your property in as little as 7 days means you won’t need to spend lots out of your own pocket maintaining the property.
Also, don’t worry about maintaining and sprucing it up before we buy it either – we will buy any house in any condition!
Ready to sell your probate property, without having to wait MONTHS on the market?
Give us a call or fill in our online form to receive a no-obligation cash offer, which we could have in your bank as soon as next week…