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Selling property as an executor

The role of an executor carries with it a number of duties and responsibilities. If you’ve been entrusted with this role of administering a loved one’s estate, chances are you’re going to want to follow the letter of the law exactly and ensure any express wishes are fulfilled. When it comes to selling property, there may be lots of emotions and sentimental value attached to someone’s home. This guide offers a brief overview of what executors will need to consider if faced with the task of selling a loved one’s property.

Can an executor sell the deceased person's home?

The executor is responsible for the whole of the estate, which includes any property that may be part of the estate. The Will may explicitly include provisions for any property, but if it doesn’t then it will ultimately be up to the executor to decide what to do with the property – noting any actions taken will need to be in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

A sale cannot, however, take place if:

  • there is a surviving joint owner of the property who does not want it sold
  • the Will prohibits the sale
  • a sale would not be in the best interests of the beneficiaries

If any beneficiaries of the Will do not want the property to be transferred into their name, it is usual for the property to be sold and the proceeds distributed among them.

Row of large homes

Obtaining a Grant of Probate 

This legal document essentially grants you the legal right to take action on behalf of the deceased, in order to carry out the requirements of their Will. A solicitor can assist with the process by completing all the paperwork for the probate application.

Valuing the estate

As part of the process of applying for a Grant of Probate, an approximate value needs to be put on the estate, which normally depends primarily upon the value of the property. Inviting two or three estate agents to value the property will give a good guide, or you can ask a surveyor to make a valuation.

Check land title and locate property deeds

Often the necessary documentation can be easily checked through the Land Registry, but sometimes necessary paperwork may be held by solicitors or a financial institution. This will need to be tracked down and checked carefully. You will particularly need to watch out for any restrictions, or defects in the title, such as the property never having been transferred into the name of the deceased following the death of a partner. The assistance of an experienced property solicitor can be very useful here.

Consider Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

If the value of the property has risen between the time the person died and the time it is sold, this constitutes a capital gain and can cause a liability to CGT. Whilst tax is only payable if the gain exceeds a threshold (currently around £12,000, but revised annually), this does show the importance of getting the property accurately value. 

What if a beneficiary disagrees with your decision?

Your duty is to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and the property should be sold at its open market value, if there is a decision to sell. If a beneficiary believes that you are not fulfilling your duty, for example by accepting a low offer for a quick sale, they can request you be removed from your role. Ultimately, if you take actions that beneficiaries feel have been significantly detrimental to them, you may be personally financially liable for any losses caused to them. If you’re experiencing troubles and disagreements with the beneficiaries of the estate, we can offer independent advice about your position, help to ensure you’re filling your legal obligations, and help you work through practical next steps.

How do I get help with this?

QualitySolicitors Hopleys GMA has a long history dating back to the 1880s, and can be trusted to provide the advice you need through what can be an extremely difficult time. From interpreting the Will, assisting with the administration of the estate, through to help with conveyancing, we have the experience to guide and reassure you.

To get in touch, phone our friendly team on 01352 859 882.

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