Various challenges can occur for both sellers and buyers when it comes to selling a probate property.
If you’re selling you need to get a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration (whichever is necessary) to go ahead; this can be laborious and drawn out, particularly in the case of administration (deceased has no valid will). You also need to get your property valued.
If you’re looking to buy a property from probate or administration, you’re also subject to the same potential delays in the conveyancing process as the seller. Additionally you might find it more difficult to get full information about the property because the sellers might never have actually lived in it.
This article identifies some challenges that both sides face when undergoing this process and offers some tips on how to make it run as efficiently as possible.
You need to obtain a valuation for the property at the time of death, as this will be used in the calculation for Inheritance Tax (IHT). A RICS-qualified valuer normally carries this out: they can advise you about the value of the property in its current condition. The housing market frequently goes up and down, so the RICS valuer should have good local knowledge.
A probate valuation does not affect what you pay for the property: you pay the value at which the property is set at as you would for any normal purchase and should budget accordingly.
Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration
You need to get the authority for dealing with a probate sale through a Grant of Representation (if you’re the executor and there’s a will) or through a Grant of Letters of Administration (if the deceased died intestate). The application to get the requisite grant, whether there’s a will or not, can involve a lengthy process. It includes:
- Completing a Probate Application
- Completing an Inheritance Tax (IHT) form
- Sending your application to your local Probate Registry
- Swearing an oath
Even though you can expect to get the grant after you’ve sent through the application in 10 working days, it can take months to prepare the application itself and the accompanying tax forms.
You can’t affect the speed of the application and the grant is being issued following it, but you should understand the process so you can plan everything out and make sure you ask all of the correct questions.
Be sure to ask the seller if they have a grant of probate because if they do then there shouldn’t be such a time delay. If they don’t, you should ask them if they’ve made their application to the probate registry.
If you are really lucky the property that you are looking to buy won’t have been put on the market until the executors have taken legal control over the asset allowing them to sell. Sadly, this is not always the case.
If you are also selling a property yourself as well, you should ensure that your buyer is aware of the situation and give them regular updates while the grant is being finalised. Ideally they’ll be patient!
You need to complete various conveyancing forms which are passed onto the buyer via your and their solicitors. These include the TA6 Property Information form, the TA10 Fittings & Contents form (and the TA7 Leasehold Information form, if applicable).
You also have to provide various other documents as well including boiler maintenance, electrical works and FENSA certificates, as well as any planning permission and building control sign-offs.
Completing the forms and providing the other documents can often be more of a challenge than for a normal sale because you may not know the answers to a lot of the questions that the forms require or the location of the documents if you didn’t actually live in the property. It’s very common in this situation for the ‘Don’t Know’ boxes to be ticked on the forms.
You have to try and get as much information from the seller as possible. This is because you are taking on full responsibility for any issues the property has from the point of exchanging contracts. From that point, any issue that arises becomes your responsibility and you won’t have any legal recourse regarding the seller.