Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a person to make sure debts are paid and that assets are distributed to the rightful heirs. If the deceased has not named an executor, the probate court will assign an administrator to oversee the distribution or liquidation of the person’s assets, his estate included.
Selling probate real estate is much like selling a traditional home. However, as an executor or administrator of an estate, you should be aware that you have to go through a longer process. If you make the right moves, however, you can speed things up and avoid potential problems along the way.
Here are 4 tips for selling a house in probate:
- Work with professionals
With all of its intricacies, the probate process makes it easy for you to make a mistake. Get everything right and you’ll be able to sell quickly by partnering with a probate real estate agent and attorney.
Selling a house in probate can be tricky, but a probate real estate agent can come up with cost-effective strategies to get it off the market in no time. They’ll advise you on what you should and shouldn’t do with the home during probate, and even represent you during negotiations.
On the other hand, a probate attorney can handle all legal matters related to the probate. They’ll help you collect all of the paperwork needed in court, assist you with tax or insurance concerns, and speak to the judge on your behalf.
- Don’t sell without authority
Keep in mind that even if you’re the selected executor in a will, it doesn’t mean you can just go ahead and sell the property of the deceased. You’ll need to be formally appointed by a judge before you can take any major actions with the property. You can continue to do routine maintenance work on the estate but you’ll want to hold back on making big renovations or sorting family heirlooms.
In situations when an executor isn’t listed in a will, the next of kin will normally be appointed by the court to manage the deceased’s estate. However, there are cases when the family of the deceased can’t come to terms and take things to court. In such instances, the probate court will typically appoint their Realtor as a receiver to handle the sale of the deceased’s property. As the receiver, the Realtor will have to come up with a strategy to sell the property to be approved by the court.
It could take up to a few months to get a court date, so file your probate case as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more bills pile up, e.g., mortgage payments, utilities, and so on. Ask your attorney to help you collect all of the documents you need like the original will, death certificate, and probate petition forms. If all goes well, you’ll be appointed the personal representative of the estate and legally be able to sell the property.
- Complete all disclosures
Under California law, all home sellers are required to make certain disclosures about the condition of the property they’re selling. These are usually structural or location-related concerns that may put homebuyers’ safety and investment at risk.
In the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS), you must go into detail about the property’s physical condition. Meanwhile, the California Natural Hazard Disclosure (NHD) requires you to indicate if the property is in or near a hazardous area.
Make it a point to provide all required disclosure forms as promptly as possible. This will not only speed up the selling process, it will also protect you from any legal claims regarding the home’s condition after the property has been sold.
However, disclosures can get tricky when a probate sale is involved. Depending on the situation, personal representatives may not be allowed to fill out the disclosure forms – if, for example, they have not lived on the property. Whatever happens, do not opt out of nor provide guesstimates on disclosure forms. Talk to your Realtor or lawyer for advice if you’re unsure about how to proceed.
- Keep the property well maintained
Waiting for a court date or disagreements among stakeholders can delay a probate sale. However, don’t leave the property vacant for too long lest you find costly maintenance issues upon your return. Insurance companies could even revoke important coverages if they find the home empty for more than 60 days.
Keep the home well maintained throughout the probate process. Mow the lawn, clean the interiors, and make sure there are no broken pipes that may cause leaks or flooding, or faulty wiring that may short-circuit the home and spark a fire.
Most of all, file for a court date as soon as possible. The earlier you get things moving, the faster you’ll be able to sell the home and not have to worry about maintaining it.
Need help putting a probate house up for sale in California? Allow me, Realtor Toni Patillo, to make the process as fast and stress-free as possible. Call me at 310.482.2035 or send me an email at toni(at)ToniPatillo(dotted)com to get started.