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Sally Gallagher MNAEA, Senior negotiator - Sales department

You may have heard about probate or a “probate property” but not really know much about what it actually means.
You wouldn’t be the only person for whom probate is much of a mystery. After all, it’s not every day that you have to deal with probate matters.

In this blog post, we set out in plain English:

1) What is probate
2) What probate property means
3) How to navigate your way through probate whether you are buying or selling.


What is Probate?

When someone passes away, the person who applies for the right to deal with the deceased’s possessions and property has to “apply for probate”. If the person who died left a Will, then the person applying can be given a “grant of probate”.
If someone has not left a Will, then a person gets “letters of administration”. If someone hasn’t left a Will but has part-owned a property it will pass to the part-owner. Note that the rules are slightly different in England when compared to Wales or Scotland. More information can be found on the Government websites.
Our Advice
When someone dies, you will need to contact the owner of the asset (property). This is usually the organisation with whom the deceased has a mortgage. It is helpful in this case if paperwork is easily traceable along with details of finances and other things to do with a home.


What is a Probate Property?

A probate property is a property that is subject to the probate process. You will need to have the ‘grant of probate’ to be able to dispose of the property. You’ll have the authority to sell the property and sign all the required documents. Without it, the property will be in limbo.
Our Advice
The probate process can be lengthy, and sometimes seem complex. While probate may not be something you have to deal with right now, it is worth understanding what you need to do in advance.


How to Find Out Who Owns a Property

It’s quite simple to find out who owns a property. The Government website is the best place to refer to, although there are commercial sites that offer a similar service.
If you go to the Land Registry site, you need to create an account and then find the property you want information about. For a small fee, you can then download a copy of the Land Registry document that tells you who owns a specific property. If a bank or other organisation still has a charge over it (which means money is still owed on it), it will show up on the document.
Our Advice
Know the exact address and postcode for the property you want the information for. While it may only be a small cost, if you’re downloading a number of documents, the cost will start to rack up.


Selling a Probate Property

Putting the property on the market is not the end of the story. Remember, when you’re selling a probate property, it has to be valued as it was at the time the deceased passed away. This is because it has inheritance tax implications and HRMC need to know the correct figures.
You should wait until you have the legal authority to sell the property before marketing it with your chosen estate agnet. While it may be tempting to get ahead of things by putting the property on the market, the legal side of probate means you could end up losing potential buyers if you are premature.
Our Advice
Use a conveyancer to deal with the legal side of things. You can also use the services of a solicitor who specialises in inheritance tax and conveyancing.


Buying a Probate Property

A probate property could be an opportunity to get your hands on a relatively inexpensive home. Often, a property that has been inherited is not needed by the recipient and a quick sale releases preferred funds. In this case, the seller may be tempted to accept a lower offer to get the property off their hands.
Be aware that if the property is being sold by an executor who has never lived in the property themselves and doesn’t know it very well, there may be unknown issues so it’s wise to get a survey done. Similarly, make sure that whoever is selling the property has the authority to do so!
Our Advice
Do your homework. Ask questions of the executor or the estate agent and be thorough.
A probate property presents opportunities, but there are i’s to dot and t’s to cross. There’s paperwork to get right and it’s paramount that you seek advice from transparent experts who will tell you everything you need to know.

At Whitton & Laing we have expert valuers and sales teams in Exeter and Exmouth covering the whole of the East Devon area who have many years of experience in helping families through a difficult time with probate whena loved one passes away and are always available to lend a guiding hand.