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None of us likes to think about losing a loved one, and when it happens, the last thing on most people’s mind is dealing with money. So making preparations in advance mean that those who have been bereaved avoid a lot of stress and anguish when other things – like taking care of family members – is far more important.

So what exactly is Probate, and what is Probate Property?

In simple terms, probate is the process of dealing with the estate of anyone who has died. Typically, this could involve registration of the death, making funeral arrangements, fulfilling the terms of the will and clearing any outstanding debts.

When a property is a part of that estate, ownership may automatically pass to a spouse if the property was jointly owned. Otherwise, it may be necessary for the surviving family member(s) to apply for a Grant of Probate, which gives them the right to sell the property. This can be a slow process, and there could be financial consequences if a property remains empty for an extended period of time, including additional insurance. So anything that can be done in advance, should be.

Do you need probate to sell a house?

If there is a property in the estate, Probate will usually be needed before it can be sold. Once you've received an offer on the property, you can exchange contracts if you're an Executor of the Will, but the property sale cannot be completed until the Grant of Probate has been provided to your Solicitor.

How you can prepare in advance, and make things easier

The best preparation is for the property owner to specify in their will, exactly who is responsible for carrying out their wishes. If they want someone else to inherit the property, for example, this needs to be clearly stated.

And even if the estate seems very simple, we’d always recommend using the services of a qualified professional, who will understand the rules, and help you to avoid the pitfalls.

What happens if there’s no formal Will in place when a person passes away?

If there’s no will, the person is deemed to have died ‘intestate’, the default legal process comes into play, and the estate will be divided in accordance with the law; this may mean that the wishes of the deceased person are not carried out.

Is the value of a probate property the same as the market value?

The probate property value is the amount you would expect that property to fetch if it were sold on the open market, and this is the same as the market value of the property. If the house sells for less than the probate value, then you can claim back the difference in tax that was paid.

Buying a Probate Property

Buying a property that is being sold after the owner has died can be a good way to purchase, and many buyers have enjoyed exceptional value, but you do need to follow the right process to avoid difficulties further down the line.

If you are buying a property from an estate, you will probably be dealing with an executor as opposed to someone who has inhabited the property themselves, so they may not know the details of certain aspects of the property and its history. They may not have immediate access to certain documents.

We would always recommend commissioning a building survey when buying a probate, and you might even want to have additional checks done on the property’s electrical, gas and heating systems. Don’t forget that the responsibility for any problems lies with the buyer, so it’s very much in your interests to carry out due diligence before signing any contracts.

 

Your choice of agent matters, too

Whether you’re buying or selling a probate property, choosing an appropriate estate agent – with suitable experience and knowledge – will stand you in good stead.

If you are in any doubt about any aspect of Probate Property, Compass Residential will be pleased to answer your questions, and guide you in the right direction, ensuring that you understand all the processes (with a minimum of jargon) and can make an informed decision on how best to proceed.

Just call Mark Newton on 020 3903 6660 for honest, professional advice, in complete confidence.

For advice and guidance on all aspects of wills, trusts and lasting powers of attorney, we recommend speaking to Eli Pressman at Barnet Wills on 07973 321 645 or email eli@barnetwills.co.uk

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