When a loved one dies, you can be left to deal with any assets they’ve left behind, which isn’t easy while you’re grieving.
This can be reasonably straightforward, but you’ll often need to obtain a grant of probate before handling their finances and possessions.
Selling a property left by a loved one can be a complicated process.
This guide will help you understand whether you need a grant of probate to sell a house.
What is probate?
A grant of probate is the legal document which allows you to be the executor of a deceased person’s assets. You’ll receive this if you’re the executor of someone’s estate in their will.
If there isn’t a will, this document can also be known as a grant letter of administration, and the closest family member will be left in charge. Either way, the process of getting this document is known as probate.
When you need probate to sell property
If your loved one was the sole owner of the property left in their will, you’ll need a grant of probate before selling it.
When probate is required, you’re still able to put the house on the market and can even accept an offer even if you’re still waiting for the grant of probate.
Remember that you cannot actually finalise the sale until you have probate.
It’s often a good idea to put the house on the market before getting probate, as this will give you a valuation, allowing you to plan for inheritance tax and any other obligations.
There is a bit of a grey area regarding executors and exchanging contracts as technically, you can do this without probate, but it isn’t best practice to do so.
You add a high level of risk to a sale if you don’t have probate before exchanging contracts, which can set you behind when you have to deal with the aftermath of a loved one’s death.
Probate and jointly-owned property
How a house is owned will affect whether you need probate. If a home has joint tenants, neither will hold a specific share of the property. If one of the owners dies, the ownership will automatically transfer to the other co-owner. In this case, probate won’t be necessary.
On the other hand, tenants in common own a house with different ownership percentages. If one of the owners dies, their share won’t be transferred to the survivor. Usually, their share will form part of their will, so probate is likely needed to deal with the home. The intestacy rules would come into play if the deceased didn’t have a will.
These rules mean unmarried couples will not automatically inherit any assets left by their partner. The surviving partner can legally apply for an inheritance, but if not, the deceased’s family will have a legal claim and be the executor.
Before starting the process of selling a property left to you by a loved one, we recommend talking to a specialist in probate and will services.
Our team at Harries Watkins Jones has years of experience in the field and is happy to help you during this difficult time.