Farrell Heyworth Estate Agents help you find your next home, sell your current home or rent out your property. We are a one stop shop because we specialise in Residential Sales, Lettings, Auctions, EPCs, Mortgage Services, Conveyancing and Surveys and Valuations. FH are one of the largest independent estate agency groups, with over 600 Home Sale Network offices and 20 Farrell Heyworth offices in the North West.
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Selling or buying probate property can have it's challenges. For sellers it's a neccesary step that can come at a difficult time. For buyers there are often extra steps they haven't encountered before in a house purchase.

As with most things, a probate sale always goes more smoothly when all parties are well prepared. But what are the special circumstances surrounding the sale of a property in probate and what do you need to know to ensure the sale or purchase runs smoothly?

Amy Leslie, Solicitor in Residential Property from our conveyancing panel partners Napthens, has the answers.


What is ‘Probate?’

Probate is the term commonly used to describe the legal process whereby the estate of a deceased person is administered. This administration involves collecting in the assets of the person, dealing with any liabilities and distributing the estate to beneficiaries in accordance with the Will or, where there is no will, under intestacy rules.

An estate often includes the deceased person’s house and this is nearly always sold as part of the administration.  The conduct of any probate sale will be handled by the executors of the estate. This is the person or people who were appointed in the Will and are usually family members, friends or the solicitor of the deceased. The executor will act as the seller, in place of the owner and will sign the contract, transfer document and also complete the property information forms.

Selling a Probate Property

As a starting point it is important to ensure that the executors have obtained the Grant of Probate. This is when the Will has been proved by the Probate Court and demonstrated in a document called a Grant of Probate. This means that the executors have the authority to dispose of the property and are legally allowed to sign the contract and paperwork. Delays in conveyancing transactions can often occur when a sale progresses to a fairly advanced stage and it then becomes apparent that the Grant of Probate has not been obtained. The process of obtaining the Grant of Probate can sometimes be lengthy, depending on the assets comprised in the estate. A complicated high value estate can take many months compared to an estate with limited assets, which usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks. If the Grant of Probate isn’t ready at the start of the transaction it can cause a significant delay.

When selling a property there are also a number of forms that the seller or executor will need to complete. These forms, property information forms and fixtures and fittings forms are part of the initial contract paperwork and provide details about the property. The fixtures and fittings form contains information about items will be left at the property on completion and ultimately forms part of the contract. The property information form contains lots of information about the property, and includes amongst other things, whether building work has been carried out, whether any gas or electrical appliances have been installed and whether there are warranties and guarantees for anything. This form is usually accompanied by copies of any available supporting documents, planning permission, building regulation certificates and warranty documents.  

Purchasing a Probate Property

When buying a property from an estate, it is important to remember that the executor’s knowledge of the property is limited. Depending on whom the executor is and their relationship to the property owner their knowledge of the property can vary enormously. Often on Probate sales it is the case that the executor will simply not know any specific details about the property nor will they be able to locate copies of any relevant documentation. 

 This may mean that, as the buyer, further investigations and searches may need to be carried out to obtain sufficient information to be confident in proceeding. For example, in addition to a building survey it may be necessary to have the gas boiler and central heating system serviced and the electrical wiring and appliances checked. As with any property it is always important to remember the ‘buyers beware’ rule and that the onus is on the buyer to fully investigate matters prior to exchange of contracts.

As with any transaction it is important to obtain specialist legal advice. If you are thinking of selling or buying a probate property or have any queries on applying for a Grant of Probate then we can offer a wide range of advice and services. Why not call into your local branch for further advice? Get in touch via our 'Talk to Farrell Heyworth' box in the left hand bottom corner of your screen. Or follow these links to find out more about selling, buying or conveyancing.

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