Undeniably, selling a house after death of parents is one of the last things you’ll want to deal with.
Taking on valuations, estate agents, viewings, and negotiation can be stressful even at the best of times.
But with such an emotional component added to the situation, it’s going to be notably more difficult.
However, we’re here to tell you there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. The best way to navigate a hard situation is with as much knowledge as possible. Knowing what to do and what to expect will prepare you for the ups and downs. It will break what probably seems like a mammoth task down into more manageable parts. And hopefully, it will help you move through the stages more quickly.
Want to hear why we recommend My Homebuyers above everyone else?
We have independently investigated all the best cash home buyers in the UK.
We ranked them based on their cash offers, reliability, customer service and 15 more metrics.
And we discovered that ‘My Homebuyers’ are superior in every regard to all other companies.
My Homebuyers will give you the best genuine cash offer, without contracts and without any fees.
While other companies will try to lock you into a contract which is rarely in your benefit. Even if they claim they don’t have contracts, the truth is, they do. And they’ll force you to sign it.
Click the button below to see exactly why we recommend My Homebuyers as your best option.
And how you can use the free Safe Connect™ programme to get VIP treatment from them.
Right off the bat, let’s establish the key points of action you’ll need to take when selling a deceased parent’s home.
Selling a house after death of parents:
Throughout this guide, we’ll look at each point in further depth.
We’ll also answer common questions about each stage, and provide a list of key action points below each section.
The very first stage in selling a property after the passing of parents is to figure out two things.
You may have the answer already.
But it’s important to remember there are a couple of ways a house can be owned.
The most common for married couples is joint ownership.
In the event of your parents’ passing, you’ll need to make absolutely sure of their ownership status. Namely: check they were not tenants in common.
In the event of both jointly-owning parents passing away, the property will go to whoever is named in their will (often, this will be children).
However, this would not necessarily happen if the owners are ‘tenants in common’.
This is where each owner holds a percentage share of the house.
Often a ‘tenants in common’ contract is used for those not in a close or marital relationship. This might be two friends or business partners making a property investment.
It can be used when one person is paying in more than the other, or covering more of the deposit costs.
In this scenario, the share held by the deceased will not necessarily pass to the other party.
Even if they are married.
The share will become part of their estate, and will be handled according to their will.
You’ll only need to worry about this if your parents purchased their house with someone else who is still alive, like a second spouse or business partner.
If so, you’ll need to make a mutual decision with the other tenant in common with regards to the share.
They might wish to purchase the share themselves, or they might wish to sell the property in its entirety.
In the most common scenario, a married couple will own a house jointly.
In the event of a divorce, the property can be sold and the profits split down the middle.
The only exceptions to this would be agreements made either at the point of purchasing the house, or in a prenuptial agreement.
Similarly, when a property is jointly owned, the remaining spouse would automatically become the sole owner of the property if the other passes away.
This is called ‘the right of survivorship’. Their marital rights put them first in line to inherit the matrimonial home.
In this circumstance, when the last remaining parent passes, the house will go to whoever is named in the will.
If there is no will, and no other married or civil partner (e.g. a second spouse who is unrelated to you), children will inherit the estate.
You’ll need to have a careful look through your parents’ house-related paperwork.
Start by looking for the lease or mortgage documents.
If you’re unable to find the information you need, you can search for property ownership information via the Land Registry Service.
It’s important to get things moving as fast as possible.
Naturally, the process of dealing with an estate following your parents’ passing is made simpler if there is an established will.
First, let’s understand what is meant by a couple of terms.
An ‘executor’ is a person who has been named to make sure a will is carried out.
They have a duty to make sure those named in the will – the ‘beneficiaries’ – get the maximum amount of money possible.
If an executor attempts to sell a house for under market value, beneficiaries can seek to claim the difference in value from the executor.
Executors are also responsible for making sure inheritance and capital gains tax are paid (more on this in section 7).
An executor can be anyone over the age of 18.
They do not have to be a spouse or family member.
They could even be a trusted professional, such as a family solicitor or accountant (although there is usually a charge associated with this).
Usually, just one or two executors are appointed, but there can be up to four.
Some parents might like to name all of their children as executors.
However, keeping the number of executors as low as possible is usually advised.
This is because all executors must agree unanimously on all decisions and actions.
The more executors there are, the more likely there will be differences of opinion.
A ‘beneficiary’ is a person named in a will.
They will be listed to receive money or assets.
Unlike executors, there can be as many beneficiaries as the creator of the will chooses.
It is possible (and common) for the executor to be a beneficiary too.
If a person dies ‘intestate’, this means they have died without leaving a valid will.
If there is no will, no spouse, and no surviving relatives, the estate will pass to the Crown.
In the event your parent or parents die intestate, and you are not named as an executor, you can apply to become an administrator of their estate.
Your legal rights will be the same as that of an executor.
Before applying for probate, a property valuation will need to be carried out.
This is because you’ll need to submit the valuation with your probate application.
The most common way to do this is with a local estate agent.
They will be able to arrange a valuation appointment for free.
This is (or should be) a no-obligation appointment.
Estate agents understand that valuations are needed for reasons other than to sell immediately.
Here’s the kicker:
It’s strongly recommended you obtain two or three valuations.
This is especially important if you are an executor of the estate.
You have a legal obligation to market the property at a correct and optimal value.
It’s uncommon, but it is possible for estate agents to make misjudgements and undervalue a property.
If this happens, as an executor, you may be responsible for making up any funds the beneficiaries may miss out on.
Estate agents will understand you’re likely to have other agents round to value too.
Property valuing is not an exact science.
Some agents may overvalue to try to secure business, others may undervalue in the hopes of a quick sale.
With three separate opinions, you’ll be able to get a clear picture and a reliable average of values.
You can choose to have a qualified RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) surveyor value the property.
You’ll need to pay a fee for this, usually between £250-£500.
A RICS survey will be slightly more data-led.
An estate agent might price optimistically, especially if they’re anticipating an upswing in the market.
A chartered surveyor will value based on previous sale data and mortgage approvals in the area.
In short, you don’t need an official RICS survey for these purposes.
To obtain formal permission to deal with the sale of your parents’ property, you’ll need to apply for a Grant of Probate (most commonly referred to as ‘probate’).
The process involves checking that the will left is valid. This can take several months.
The sooner it’s applied for, the better.
You’ll need to do this if you were named as the executor of the will.
If there is no will, you’ll need to apply for a grant of ‘letters of administration’ as mentioned in section 2, so you can become an “administrator of their estate” (AOTE).
You don’t need to apply for probate before putting the property on the market.
But if probate is refused or not granted on time, the sale cannot complete.
This gets extremely difficult if complications arise after the point of contract exchange.
We’ll look more at timing the sale of your property in section 6, ‘Instruct estate agents’.
You can apply for a Grant of Probate by visiting the government website.
You’ll have an option to apply either by post or online.
Before you begin, make sure you’re using the right form. If your parents have written a will, and you are named as an executor, you should use form PA1P.
If no will has been written, you should use form PA1A. In this case, you will become the ‘administrator’ of their estate as opposed to an executor.
Instead of a ‘grant of probate’, you’ll receive a ‘letter or administration’. Your role and legal rights will be similar.
There are fees involved in applying for probate.
Application costs £215, except in the rare case where the estate is valued at less than £5,000.
Full details of probate costs can be found here.
You’ll also need to provide documentation alongside your application forms.
Namely, the death certificate, and the official will (if there is one).
If you need help with completing the probate forms, you can contact HMRC on 0300 123 1072.
Another option is to bring in a professional. A probate specialist is usually a solicitor or accountant.
And they charge accordingly.
You might consider using a specialist if things are particularly complicated.
One example might be if the estate was used as a business, still earning an income, or has a complicated history of tax records.
Another might be if claims or disputes are being made on the will.
Key action points:
This article provides a good summary of using probate specialists, and the fees you can expect to pay.
There will be some time while you’re waiting for the Grant of Probate to come through.
It may be a few weeks, it may be months. But you won’t be short of things to get on with.
Selling a house after a parent’s passing presents a seemingly endless to-do list.
One of the biggest physical tasks you’ll be presented with is organising the house itself.
Hopefully, there will be positive aspects to this stage of the process.
There are no strict time limits. And you’ll no doubt discover lost and much-loved possessions and memories.
If nothing else, it’s a break from the piles of paperwork.
But sorting, organising and preparing a house for sale is daunting at the best of times.
Here are some ways you can make this part a bit easier on yourself (and any others involved).
Certain items in your parents’ home may have been officially earmarked in the will for named beneficiaries.
This might be things like furniture, antiques, jewellery, china, or other valuables. These items are referred to in law as ‘specific legacies’.
As a general rule, if you think an item might be worth more than £500, you should have it professionally valued.
You might like to develop a system for marking these items.
This could be with stickers, post-it notes, or storage boxes.
Usually, these items are left where they are while the probate is being processed.
Beneficiaries will be expecting to collect them when the probate is granted.
Taking them to your home or putting them in a place of storage that only you have access to may cause confusion or tension.
There is likely to be plenty of items in your parents’ home that are not named in the will.
These will be everyday things like cutlery, clothes, and soft furnishings.
There are no laws to dictate what happens with these items.
If there are friends and relatives wishing to take mementos from your parents’ home, you can organise this amongst yourselves.
Sometimes, conflict can arise when dividing up unnamed possessions.
A good tactic in this scenario is for each person to list 5 things they’d like to take.
The lists should be in order of preference.
Hopefully, each person has a different priority item.
If not, you can work down the lists.
It should be possible to negotiate, resulting in a situation where everyone gets something of value to remember your parents by.
Lastly are the items not named in the will and not rehomed with friends or family.
Everything will need to be cleared from the house before the sale completes.
Remaining items can be disposed of, recycled, donated to charity, or collected by a house clearance company.
House clearance can be costly. But it’ll save you making multiple trips in the car, or hiring a van.
Generally speaking, houses are easier to sell when they’re furnished.
They tend to look bigger, brighter, and in better condition.
It’s easier for people to envision where their furniture will go, and how they’ll use the rooms.
When houses are empty, marks on walls, chipped paint, and fraying carpets are much more noticeable.
In light of this, you might like to wait until you’ve found a buyer before clearing the house.
On the other hand, most buyers will not want to deal with things left behind.
Once probate has been granted, sales can move fast.
Your parents’ property will represent the end of the chain.
If your buyers have no chain, there is very little conveyancing that needs to be done.
Remember: If you go to market, find a buyer very quickly, and that buyer is motivated to move, you’ll have a limited amount of time to get clearing.
It’s a good thing to reach a quick completion.
But be aware of the volume of work that needs to be done to the house.
Make a decision early on.
Assess the volume of ‘stuff’ that needs to be sorted.
Decide if you’re prepared and able to rush if needed.
When taking a house to the market, one big question is often raised: to redecorate, or not to redecorate?
Should you strip the wallpaper? Replace the carpets? Put a new kitchen in?
It may surprise people, but often, the best course of action is to leave things as they are.
Roughly 1 in 10 property sales in the UK are probate sales.
The reason they’re so popular with buyers is not in spite of their condition. It’s because of it.
Properties that sell through probate make great buying opportunities.
They’re usually being sold with no onward chain.
They present the opportunity to be renovated and/or extended and sold at profit.
Investment buyers will want to develop the property for specific purposes, like rental or onward sale.
Those buying for themselves will want to put their own stamp on it.
So it’s best to leave the house as it is, and save yourself the costs of work.
It’s a little different if the house doesn’t need full renovation.
In this case, some sprucing up can be a good idea.
Again, buyers will probably want to choose their own kitchens, bathrooms, and colour schemes.
But things like painting skirting boards and filling picture-hook holes all contribute to a good first impression.
This is another point where you might want to consider what to clear and what to leave.
Things like sofas, beds, tables, and plants are great for “staging” a property.
Things like ornaments and clutter should ideally be removed.
Outdoors is where you can really make a difference.
It’s okay for a property to look like it needs work, but the plot as a whole shouldn’t present too much of a challenge.
Things like old garden furniture, dilapidated sheds and greenhouses, or broken fencing can intimidate buyers.
These types of things feel more like chores than exciting projects.
Lastly, it’s always a great idea to cut back grass and weeds.
Key action points:
And most importantly, take action now.
Even if spending time in the house of your parents brings up memories, you’ll have to bite the bullet and do the minor repairs.
Nothing will make your parents more proud than if you’re able to manage your emotions in this difficult time.
Here comes one of the hardest parts: the sale process itself.
This can feel like a ‘point of no return’.
You might find yourself struggling with the idea of handing over keys to an agent.
You might not like the idea of strangers going in and out of your parents’ house. It’s normal to find this part emotionally taxing.
Try to frame it in a positive light if you can.
When you find the right buyer, the house will be loved and cared for rather than being left empty.
It’ll be a place for a new family to make happy memories.
And although you may have certain responsibilities as an executor, you’ll have a say in the offer you choose to accept.
It’s all about doing the best thing by your parents, and the beneficiaries of their wishes.
You might choose to instruct estate agents before probate is granted.
In this case, you’ll need to inform them about the status of the application.
Prospective buyers will want an idea of timescales.
If you’re an executor of the will, you’ll need to act reasonably quickly to ensure an efficient resolution.
The best course of action usually depends on how long you think the house (or property) will take to sell.
An affordable house in a popular area may attract a buyer straight away.
This means keeping hold of the buyer while the probate is being processed.
As long as they’re informed of the timescale, they might not mind.
But if the probate process starts to drag on unexpectedly, you risk them losing interest.
You might be dealing with a property that’s quirky, particularly high-value, a large estate, or in need of major works. If so, the time it takes to find a buyer might be longer.
You may wish to instruct an agent sooner rather than later.
In this case, it wouldn’t make sense to wait months for probate approval, and then wait another few months to find a buyer.
Bear in mind that even after the sale is agreed, there is a conveyancing process, which can be lengthy too.
Key action points:
It’s important to not be too over-optimistic about the time it will take to sell your parents’ property.
If your working with an estate agent, it will take a number of months and will depend on many different variables.
But if you’re looking to sell your property fast, then working with a fast home-buying company might be the solution for you.
You can use our company comparison table to find a reliable and trustworthy service, and decide whether expediting the sale of the property is right for you.
When selling a house after death of parents, this is one of the few points where a deadline is involved.
There is no deadline to apply for probate, although it’s advised to do so as early as possible.
There is also no deadline for putting the house on the market, although you may have obligations to execute the will in a timely manner.
There is however a deadline for the payment of inheritance tax (IT).
If you think inheritance tax is likely to be owed on your parents’ estate, it can be worth paying part sooner rather than later.
This is because it’s due 6 months after the date of death. Not six months after the sale of the house.
Any delays with probate or sale can quite easily take you past the 6 month mark.
After 6 months, interest will start being charged.
If you need to use your own funds to make an inheritance tax payment, you’ll be able to reclaim it from the estate once it’s sold.
If you overpay, HMRC will refund the excess once probate is granted. If you think you’ll struggle to make this payment, you can request a grant of credit from HMRC.
If inheritance tax is payable, it must be paid within 6 months after the death of your parent.
Failure to pay it in time can result in interest or financial penalties.
If you are the executor of the will, this will be your responsibility.
This is where you’ll need to look at the broader picture of your parents’ finances.
You’ll need to assess their debt.
Any outstanding debt must be paid as a priority when the estate is sold and the funds released.
Any valuable gifts that were given by your parents in the last 7 years may also be subject to inheritance tax.
Once the estate is sold and debts are settled, you can work out the inheritance tax bill.
If the final value minus any debt is £325,000 or less, inheritance tax will not be owed.
The tax will be owed on any value over the threshold of £325,000.
The HMRC ‘grossing up’ tool can help you if you struggle with the calculations.
Capital gains tax (CGT) is payable when a profit is made through a value increase.
One example might be a classic car or an antique inherited and then sold during probate.
If the value of that item has increased since the death of the person they inherited it from, you will owe capital gains tax.
There is less urgency on capital gains tax than inheritance tax.
Usually, you don’t need to pay capital gains tax at the time of inheritance.
If inherited property or shares increase in value, you will likely owe capital gains tax when you sell them.
HMCTS Probate Frequently Asked Questions : Click Here
The government has a practical guide on what to do when someone dies: Click Here
HMCTS has a useful guide for people acting without a solicitor: Click Here
Cruse Bereavement Care has a support helpline and offers help: Click Here
The organisations listed below are currently offering support via email and online chat.
Free and impartial money advice, set up by government: Click Here
The Business Debtline is a charity which provides free advice to small businesses: Click Here
Citizens Advice: Click Here
We want to help out as many people as possible. That’s why we created this comprehensive article.
If you are looking to sell your property, call us on 0333 242 2814 or message us through the live chat.
Depending on your preference and circumstances, we’ll connect you for free with one of our strictly vetted, ethical partners.
They will help you sell your property for the best offer you can realistically achieve.
They will take care of all of the legal processes and fees and you’ll get the cash straight into your bank account.
With our partners you can achieve a very fast sale or a slower one if you’re not pressed on time.
Faster sales usually yield a lesser price but they save you time.
It all depends on your circumstances and preference.
A parent passing away is always a huge turning point in our lives.
Selling a house after death of parents is a process no one wants to face.
And dealing with stressful admin alongside the bereavement itself is incredibly emotionally taxing.
When faced with these burdens, many people just want simple solutions.
Using a home-buying service can be one of them.
Here’s where we can help.
As more and more home-buying companies pop up, it’s essential to know you’re in safe hands.
Use our company comparison table to find a reliable and trustworthy service, and decide whether expediting the sale of the property is right for you.
More To Explore
The Complete Guide:
Selling Your House After a Divorce
Read More >>
The Definitive Guide:
How to Stop Your House From Being Repossessed
Read More >>