If you inherit a house, you must complete the probate process before you can sell the property. Probate will prove your ownership of the house and give you the legal authority to decide what happens to it.
Selling a house in probate is a little more complicated than selling your own home and the process can be daunting for those unfamiliar with it.
Our property experts have compiled this handy checklist to keep things running smoothly.
1. Secure the House
An unoccupied house can be a haven for criminal activity, especially if it is still full of furniture and belongings. Remove anything portable with a high monetary or sentimental value and make sure that windows and doors are locked. If there is a burglar alarm, turn it on.
If you have particular concerns about the area or foresee the property standing empty for some time, it might be worth investing in a basic CCTV system. Be sure to follow government guidance on the acceptable use of home security equipment.
2. Insure the Property
There is a greater risk of maintenance issues developing and going unnoticed in an empty property. Make sure that the electricity, gas and water supplies are turned off and that smoke alarms are functioning.
The property owner’s death will result in any insurance policies being terminated — some will do this immediately; others will allow a grace period of 30-days. You will need to take out “unoccupied home insurance” to cover the property until you sell it.
3. Contact the Council and Utilities Companies
It may feel like there is a long list of businesses and organisations to inform about the owner’s death. The most important ones to contact in the first instance is the local council and the utility companies.
The council may offer a reduced council rate if the property will be sitting empty for some time. Contacting the utility companies and the internet and landline providers will prevent bills from creeping up for services that are no longer being used.
4. Value the Property
Do your own research online by comparing the recently sold prices of similar properties in the area to give you an idea of how much the property is worth. However, valuing a probate property is more complex than a standard house valuation, so you should invite several estate agents to value the property. House Buyer Bureau can provide a valuation to help you understand its cash value.
If the property is likely to be worth over £325,000, there will probably be inheritance tax to pay, unless you fall into one of the categories of exemption. If you are liable to pay tax, it would be prudent to engage the services of a Chartered Surveyor who has the necessary experience to provide a valuation for inheritance tax purposes.
5. Investigate Your Tax Obligations
Once you have an accurate valuation of the property, you will be able to determine if inheritance tax is due. This will depend on several factors, such as your relationship to the deceased and how much the house is worth. The standard rate of inheritance tax is 40%.
Seek professional legal advice to ensure you understand the law and how it applies to you. Your solicitor will provide you with the relevant forms and explain the process of paying any money due.
6. Start the Probate Process
If the deceased left a will, you would need to apply to the Probate Registry for a “Grant of Probate”. If there is no will or the will is not valid, the deceased died “intestate”, and you will receive “Letters of Administration” instead.
If inheritance tax is due, you will need to provide the receipt from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to prove this has been paid.
7. Market the Property
Once the probate process is complete, you can sell the property just as you would any other residential building — market it with an estate agent, register it for auction, find a private buyer or sell to a house cash buying company.
If you’re keen to sell the house fast, House Buyer Bureau can buy your property in as little as 7 days. There’s no need to spend time and money on home improvements, you won’t have to endure endless viewings and there are no estate agents or legal fees to pay. Our service also provides a hassle-free solution for people who have inherited a hard-to-sell house, for example, a hoarder’s house that is unappealing to buyers and probably in a poor state of repair.
8. Instruct a Legal Professional
Once probate is complete, find a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal aspects of the sale. They will liaise with the buyer on your behalf, manage negotiations and ensure that the paperwork is in order.
Your legal representative will work with you and the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer to coordinate the exchange of contracts and completion of the sale. House Buyer Bureau customers have access to our legal representatives at no cost to them.