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A woman handles a probate sale of a house belonging to a deceased relative. SAM Conveyancing share our best tips for buying a probate house or selling one

Probate Sale: Tips for buying or selling a probate house

22/01/2019
(Last Updated: 22/02/2024)
3 min read
Key Takeaways
  • A probate sale happens when the owner has died.
  • A probate house sale cannot take place without grant of probate, unless the property is being sold by the joint tenant of the deceased.
  • The seller can and should answer 'Do Not Know' to any questions they don't have reliable answers to, so its is crucial for the buyer to thoroughly investigate with a proper house survey and property searches.

What is a probate house sale?

Probate is a term which refers to the legal processes around the management of a deceased person's estate, which often includes property. A probate house sale is being sold by someone with 'probate', that's the legal right to deal with the estate, including the sale of the house(s). This means they were not the owner occupier.

Probate law applies to the whole estate, so it involves much more than just probate house sales, but we will focus on selling a house in probate and buying probate property in this article.

This article guides you through the different challenges, whether you are buying probate property or selling a house in probate, and provides solutions to make the probate process easier for you both.


Tips for buying a probate house

You're not dealing with the previous owner, but the person administrating their estate. Unless the deceased had everything in order before they passed away, you may find that lots of information about the property has been lost. You will need to be prepared to be compassionate with the seller, who is grieving, and to be patient as probate house sales can run into delays.


Grant of Probate

When someone dies, no-one can actually sell their house until they have the grant of probate. You can't speed up the sellers application, but you can ask the estate agent early on "Does the seller actually have the Grant of Probate?"

If yes, then there is no time delay. If the answer is no, then you need to ask "Have you made you application to the Probate Registry?"


How long does probate take when buying a house?

It can take months for the seller to prepare their application for probate if the estate is complex, but once the application has been made, probate is usually granted within 10 working days. However; you can still run into problems if someone else challenges their application for probate.

As a buyer you'd hope that the property wouldn't be marketed until the executors had legal control over the asset to allow them to sell. Sadly, and most commonly, executors look to first market the property to get the ball rolling, and then look to get the Grant of Representation or Grant of Letters of Administration afterwards.

The greatest challenge you face is if you have a buyer for your own property and they are waiting on you, and the probate applicant to get a Grant. You'll need a very patient buyer and to keep them regularly informed whilst the grant is being finalised. If you can't afford to lose your buyer and they're in a hurry, making an offer on probate property without grant of probate is a no-go.


Probate Valuation

As a buyer, the probate valuation is irrelevant, you'll pay the value of the property based on the current market value and this is normally set by a local estate agent. You should compare similar properties to make sure your offer is fair.


Probate House Sale Process

In the UK, you buy the property 'Caveat Emptor' or buyer beware; taking on full responsibility for any issues with the property from the point of exchange of contracts. This means that if there is an issue with the property in the future, for example there was no building control sign off for an extension or the boiler breaks, then you have no legal recourse over the seller (unless they made false representations to you).

You must get as much information from the seller as possible - this could mean the seller getting retrospective building control sign off or a boiler service/check at the seller's own cost. If they are not willing to do so, you may be able to negotiate for a lower purchase price, based on the risk you're taking on by buying without all of the relevant information.

We always recommend a RICS house survey on a house purchase. When buying a house in probate this is even more crucial. Get an expert to inspect the property to avoid any nasty, dangerous, and often expensive defects which may not otherwise reveal themselves until it is too late.


RICS Surveyors | Fixed Fees | Same week availability | Access arranged

Tips for a probate house sale

As the seller, you'll be dealing with the loss of someone who was likely close to you. This can be a difficult time, so it is important to gather about yourself as much support as you can. Choosing the right solicitor for the probate house sale can help to keep your stress to a minimum.

You'll have to deal with the complexity of obtaining Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration, valuing the property and facing enquiries from the seller which you may not be able to answer.


If you and the deceased owned the property as Joint Tenants, you wont need a Grant of Probate.


Grant of Probate

First, you'll need to get authority to handle the probate house sale, via a Grant of Representation (also known as a Grant of Probate) if you are an executor and there is a will; or, via a Grant of Letters of Administration if you are an administrator and there is no will (this is called intestate). The application to get a grant, whether you have a will or not, is the same and can take time as you need to:


    1

    Complete a Probate Application Form PA1

    2

    Complete an Inheritance Tax Form (Important - Whether you have inheritance tax to pay or not, you'll still need to complete an Inheritance Tax Form and submit to the HMRC)


You have to pay any inheritance tax due, no later than 6 months after death, otherwise interest is payable. This could mean paying out before the estate assets have been sold. If you do not have the liquid funds to pay the IHT due, try to begin the process as early as you are able.

    4

    Swear an oath


The process to get the grant after application is around 10 working days; however, it can take months to prepare the probate application form and inheritance tax forms, especially if there are a number of different assets to find or if the estate is intestate.

House Valuation for Probate

You'll need to get a valuation for the property from a qualified RICS valuer who will calculate the value as at the time of death as this is used in the calculation for Inheritance Tax. This is not always easy as the housing market in many areas goes up and down frequently, so choose a RICS valuer who has good local knowledge, to give an accurate valuation for probate.

We have a nationwide panel of local surveyors available to provide a probate valuation. Call 0333 344 3234, email help@samconveyancing.co.uk, or complete our simple form for a competitive quote.


Property Information

As part of the probate house sale process the executors of the estate will complete the Property Information Forms (TA6 Property Information and TA10 Fittings and Contents) to the best of their knowledge. These forms include other property related documents such as boiler maintenance certificates, electrical works invoices, FENSA certificates, planning permissions and building control sign off.

You are likely to be unable to provide adequate answers to many of the questions and may not have the supporting documents required. It is common for a representative to tick 'Do Not Know' for many of the answers within the property information forms.

Your buyer's solicitor should have made it clear to them than this is fairly standard when buying probate property, and they will need to conduct searches and surveys to satisfy their enquiries. Do not give information in the property information forms if you are not certain, or you could become liable for misrepresentation of the property.



Need help with a probate house sale?

The process of selling or buying a probate property is not standard compared to a normal conveyancing so you will need support. We have solicitors who specialise in probate sales and work to a fixed fee quote. If you'd like to call to discuss further then call 0333 344 3234 or email us at help@samconveyancing.co.uk



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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.


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