The Executor of an estate has the authority to sell the property of the deceased, as long as it is specified in the Will or authorised by the court. However, the Executor needs to be sure there are no surviving joint owners or clauses in the Will that prevent selling the property.
The process of selling the property (which is part of the estate administration process) will depend on the specific circumstances of the estate, such as whether there is a valid Will, any outstanding debts, disputes among beneficiaries, and more.
What is the estate administration process?
The estate administration process in the UK typically involves the following steps:
- Obtain the death certificate: The first step is to obtain the death certificate of the deceased.
- Identify the Executor(s): The Executor(s) are usually named in the Will and are responsible for administering the estate. If there is no Will (known as dying intestate), the next of kin or a court-appointed Administrator may act as the Personal Representative.
- Notify relevant parties: The Executor must inform the relevant parties, such as the beneficiaries, financial institutions, and utility companies, of the death.
- Value the estate: The Executor must identify and value all assets and liabilities of the estate, including bank accounts, all property, life insurance, etc.
- Apply for a Grant of Representation: If the estate is worth more than a certain amount, the Executor will need to apply for a Grant of Probate (if there is a valid Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no valid Will).
- Settle debts and taxes: The Executor must settle any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased and the estate.
- Distribute the assets: Once all debts have been settled and taxes paid, the remaining assets should be distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will or the rules of intestacy if there is no Will.
The estate administration process can be complex and time-consuming, and it is recommended that the Executor seeks legal and financial advice to ensure that the process is carried out correctly.
Can an Executor of a Will sell property without all beneficiaries approving?
In general, an Executor can sell property without the approval of all beneficiaries, but they have a legal duty to act in the best interests of all beneficiaries and to follow the instructions set out in the Will.
If the Will includes specific instructions on how the property should be sold, the Executor must follow these instructions. For example, the Will may specify that the property must be sold through a specific method.
If the Will does not include any instructions on how the property should be sold, the Executor must act reasonably and in the best interests of all beneficiaries. This means that they should obtain a fair market value for the property and not sell it at a significant discount as selling the property at a discount could make the Executor liable for the difference. This is mainly due to likelihood the Executor has denied the beneficiaries funds and they could be asked to personally make up the difference in value.
If there is disagreement between beneficiaries over the sale of the property, the Executor may need to seek legal advice to ensure that they are acting in accordance with their duties (this is known as contentious probate). Ultimately, the Executor is responsible for ensuring that the property is sold in a way that is fair and reasonable to all beneficiaries.
How long does an Executor have to sell property?
There is no fixed time frame for an Executor to sell property in the UK. The time taken to sell the property will depend on a variety of factors, such as the current market conditions, the condition of the property, the location, and the complexity of the estate.
However, as a general rule, the Executor is expected to act in a timely and efficient manner to administer the estate. The Executor has a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to ensure that the estate is administered as quickly as possible. They may also put themselves at risk by taking longer than necessary, as they are personally liable if beneficiaries make claims against the estate because of delays.
In many cases, the Executor may need to obtain the Grant of Representation before they can sell the property. The process of obtaining a Grant of Representation can take several months, and this may delay the sale of the property. It is important for the Executor to keep the beneficiaries informed of their progress on the estate.
Can an Executor transfer property to themselves?
Due to the Executor(s) having a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, it is important to avoid any conflicts of interest. As such, it is generally not appropriate for an Executor to transfer property to themselves.
If an Executor transfers property to themselves without proper authorisation or without acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, they may be in breach of their legal duties and could face legal action.
How do you sell property when the deceased has no Will?
When the deceased has no valid Will, they are said to have died intestate. In this situation, the process for selling property will depend on the rules of intestacy.
If the property is held jointly with a surviving owner, the property will usually pass to the surviving owner automatically.
If the deceased solely owned the property, the rules of intestacy will determine who is entitled to inherit the property. The rules of intestacy set out a specific order of priority for distributing the deceased's assets, including their property.
To sell the property, the person entitled to inherit the property will need to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration from the Probate Registry, which will give them the legal authority to deal with the estate. They can then follow the standard process for selling the property, including valuing the property, preparing the necessary legal documents, and finding a buyer.
Does a property have to be valued for probate?
In the UK, if the deceased owned property at the time of their death, the property will usually need to be valued for probate purposes. The value of the property is used to calculate the value of the estate and determine whether Inheritance Tax is owed. The value of the property is usually determined by a professional Valuer or an Estate Agent. The valuation should reflect the probate value which is generally slightly less than the open market value of the property at the date of death.
The Executor of the Will or the Administrator of the estate is responsible for arranging for the property to be valued. They may need to obtain several valuations to ensure that the value is accurate and that they can justify their valuation to the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if necessary.
It is important to ensure that the property is valued accurately, as an inaccurate valuation can result in incorrect Inheritance Tax calculations or disputes between beneficiaries. It is therefore recommended that the Executor or Administrator seek professional advice and guidance to ensure that the property is valued correctly for probate purposes.
Kings Court Trust is a probate and estate administration provider that offers award-winning solutions to support every family. Whether you need a hand obtaining the Grant of Probate, completing the complicated tax and legal work, or anything in between, you’re in safe hands with our team of specialists.
If you have any questions about the estate administration process, including applying for the Grant of Probate, call our Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000 or fill in the form below: