Whilst many of us will have heard the term probate before, and have a rough idea of what it means, many people have no real clue of the ins and outs of it unless they happen to be in the (often unfortunate) position of dealing with probate properties. Having detailed knowledge of probate properties can be of benefit to both buyers and sellers dealing with such a property, so we thought we’d give an overview here as to what to expect, whatever side you’re on.
So what is probate?
Probate is the widely-used term for the legal process under which a deceased person’s estate is managed. Lots of estates will include property, usually the recently departed person’s home, so the term ‘probate property’ is a term familiar to many people. The probate process does involve far more than property usually, with this just being one aspect to deal with.
Selling a probate property
Selling probate properties can often be an upsetting an emotional time for those involved. Knowing more about probate, and having a plan of action if you believe you might not be far away from dealing with a probate property, will make a stressful time that bit easier.
The first thing to do is to determine whether or not you need to have a Grant of Probate (also referred to as Grant of Representation) in order to dispose of the property. For surviving wives, husbands or partners who wish to sell the property, homes can often be sold without a Grant of Probate providing the property was held in joint names. Checking the title deeds at the Land Registry will point you in the right direction as to which types of documentation you need. It will also tell you what your next steps should be.
If you do require a Grant of Probate to sell the property, make sure you get the process underway as soon as possible. Having the document means that those given the responsibility of handling the deceased’s Will will have the authority to sell the property and also can sign any paperwork needed to complete the transaction.
Conveyancing delays are frequent due to the Grant of Probate not being obtained quickly, thus making the whole process drag on. Generally speaking, the more complicated the estate in question, the longer Grant of Probate will take to obtain. An estimate is a wait of anywhere between six to 12 weeks if the estate you are dealing with is complex and taxable.
Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the selling process can begin, and this is often actually relatively straightforward. Sellers are advised to make the best of the property before putting it on the market, and making sure the house is cleared, and tidying the garden and/or a lick of paint in any tatty areas can make the world of difference to ensuring a quick sale.
While a property inheritance can be seen as a windfall, an empty property can quickly turn into a liability. You need to decide if you’re definitely selling the property, or are going to rent it out. If a property remains empty for longer than 30 days, you may need to take out vacant property insurance, too. Selling a probate property is part of a legal process, so you are strongly advised to seek professional help from a solicitor when handling the sale.
Buying a probate property
If you’re keen on a probate property you’ll be buying from an estate, and it is likely that you will be dealing with an executor rather than somebody who has actually lived in the property themselves. This means that you’ll have to do some digging and find out more about the place than you would ordinarily. Executors will only have a very limited knowledge of the property, so allow for time to investigate further, and spending money on a full survey. You must keep in mind that the responsibility to unearth any problems lies squarely at the feet of the buyer.