Probate properties are properties owned by a deceased person. ‘Probate’ is the legal process where a decedent’s estate is transferred to his heirs, as stated in his last will and testament. In most cases, the only way for heirs to become the legal owners of the inherited property is to go through with the probate process.
If you have a probate property and have plans to sell, there are still a few ways to sell a house fast in this different ballgame.
How Is Selling a Probate Property Different Than a Traditional Home Sale?
A probate property sale involves the participation of the court, whereas traditional home sales don’t. In addition, the sale will include a probate attorney, an appointed real estate agent to represent the executor, plus the buyers and their respective real estate brokers/agents.
Before the property gets transferred to the heirs, the property must go through the probate process. If a will from the deceased lists an executor, the probate process is called 'testate.' When there is no will, the court will appoint a family member (immediate) as the estate's executor. This probate process is called 'intestate.' Intestate properties are typically sold via probate court.
The sale will carefully follow the court’s guidelines and deadlines and will involve disclosure documents not usually present in traditional property sales. There is court involvement every step of the way; the court even orders the real estate appraisal of the home to set its market price.
When the buyer has his offer, the executor/representative petitions the court for a license to sell the house. After the court is petitioned, the court notifies the property heirs before the sale may proceed. If there are no objections, the court sets an appointment for bidding.
Interested buyers may attend and submit their bids. The highest bidder wins, and the winner must pay at least 10% of his bid price as a downpayment.
How Long Does the Probate Process Take?
The probate process typically depends on the existence of the will and the estate. If there's a will (testate property) specifying an executor, the probate process can be shorter.
State laws may also affect the length of the probate process. Depending on the state laws, the probate process for small estates may take anywhere from half a year to two years. To avoid delays, check your state laws with regards to filing for probate.
In Florida, for instance, the law states that anyone in possession of a will must file it within ten days of learning the death, whether the properties will go to probate or not.
Steps to Minimize Stress in a Probate Sale
Probate sales follow court rules, dates, and appointments closely; that’s why they’re more tedious than standard property transactions. However, there are ways to take the stress off of the process, even if you want to sell a house fast.
1. Enlist the Help of Experts.
One of the best things you can do to minimize headaches during a probate property sale is to hire experts to represent you in the process.
Hire a seasoned probate attorney with years of experience under his belt and a proven track record. Also, you’ll need a real estate agent who’s well-versed in selling probate properties. Your probate attorney will be the one to gather all the court documents and will do the filing of the petition on your behalf. He will serve as your counsel throughout the probate process.
Your agent, on the one hand, will help you navigate the sale process and assist you in providing the particular documents and contracts to ensure a successful sale. Inherited properties need extra care, and leaving your property in competent hands will undoubtedly put your mind to rest.
2. Make Sure You Have the Authority to Sell the Property.
According to expert probate lawyers, you have to wait for the court to formally appoint you as the executor before you can take any legal action to sell the house. You have to make a court appearance, and you’ll have to be appointed by the judge personally.
You may help keep the property grounds clean, mow the lawn or bring the mail, but you’re not allowed to make renovations or sell the property (or anything in it) unless you’re authorized by the court.
To avoid stressful legal situations, wait for your appointment as an executor, and make sure you’ve got the right authority to sell the property.
3. Check the Documents and the Estate Inventory
Make sure to take inventory of the estate properly. Have the estate planning documents ready. These include:
The will and living will
Power of attorney
Funeral and burial arrangements
Apart from the estate planning documents, check the assets and even the remaining debt. Since laws vary from one state to another, make sure to check your state laws or ask your probate attorney regarding all the estate inventory documents you'll need.
In case of debt, you will have to notify the known creditors or the individuals whom the deceased owed money to. The estate heirs will have to pay these creditors with cash from the proceeds (sale) of the estate, whether they are personal loans, credit card loans, or any similar debt.
And another thing, you will also need to file income taxes and pay inheritance taxes due (if there are any). This is to make sure that there are no outstanding claims on the property that can make the probate and the selling process difficult for you.
4. Inform Other Family Members and Allow Yourself to Grieve.
When it comes to probate property sales, it’s not always about the property. There are no words to describe the loss of a loved one, and selling the estate is truly beyond taxing. It’s easy to get caught up with it all, but don’t forget to allow yourself to grieve.
If it helps, inform your family members about your intent to sell and ask for their help (either for the process or for emotional support). If not your family, talk to people for emotional release and grief support.
Remember, do everything at your own pace. Allow time for your grief, and until you’re feeling better, don’t force things. When you feel up to it, hire an expert probate attorney and a seasoned agent to help you in selling your inherited property. You might also consider having an estate sale to liquidate any of the possessions remaining in the house that nobody wants as well.
Final Thoughts on Selling a Probate Property
If you have never sold a deceased relative property before, it is a good idea to consult those who have. Put a team together, including a local real estate agent and attorney who have some experience in this area. It can be a trying process where emotions are still very strong among family members. Remember, cooler heads always prevail.
Other Helpful Real Estate Resources
Home staging tips to get your property sold quickly - when selling a home, one of the most vital things you can do is preparation. Homes that look their best sell quicker and for more money. In the article at Massachusetts Real Estate News, see some of the best home staging tips.
Things to know about moving - without a doubt, moving is one of the most stressful and challenging tasks when buying or selling a home. See how you can make the process go a whole lot smoother in the article at Realty Times.
Advice for buyers and sellers - see an excellent compilation of real estate articles in a visual format on multiple topics to help with buying and selling a home.
Follow the advice in these articles to have a smoother real estate transaction.
About the author: The above article selling a probate property was written by Victor Whittle. Victor is an acquisitions assistant for Prospect Group company. He has over three years of experience in the company. Victor is currently settled in California and loves starting his day with a shot of espresso and cycling through his neighborhood.