What happens if someone dies while selling a property?

14th JULY 2022

When someone dies whilst selling a property, there are a number of different things that may need to happen depending on how far through the selling process they are and whether they owned the property solely or with another person.

For free initial advice call our will advisors or request a callback and we will contact you.

If the seller dies prior to the exchange of contracts

If the property was owned solely by the deceased, the executor or administrator of their estate will need to acquire a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to sell the property.

If the property was owned as Joint Tenants (where each owner holds a 100% share of the property), the co-owner can still sell the property as planned. In order to amend the registered Title for the property, the living co-owner will need to send a copy of the death certificate to the Land Registry. If the property was unregistered, the co-owner should place a copy of the death certificate with the Deeds.

If the property was co-owned as Tenants in Common (where the property’s value is held in shares), the co-owner can still sell the property. However, they will need to appoint a third party to sell the property for them, and both parties will need to agree to pay the deceased co-owner’s share of the sale to their Estate.

If the seller dies after the exchange of contracts

If the seller dies following the exchange of contracts, the contract is still valid and the sale must still go forward.

If the seller was the sole owner of the property, the executor or administrator of their estate will need to obtain a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to complete the sale.

It is crucial that the executor or administrator acquire the Grant as soon as possible because damages or compensation may be payable to the buyer if the sale does not complete on the day stated on the contract. However, this might be easier said than done as the Probate Registry is often backed up with pending requests, meaning it can take months for the Grant to be approved. If this is the case and you are worried that you might not be able to complete the sale in time, try negotiating with the buyers, as they might be sympathetic to your circumstances.

If the property is owned by more than one owner as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common, the same rules apply as when the seller dies prior to the exchange of contracts and there is more than one owner.

What to do on completion of the sale

If the property was owned solely by the deceased, then 100% of the net proceeds from the sale will be paid into the deceased’s estate.

If the property was owned as Joint Tenants, the surviving co-owner receives all the net proceeds of the sale.

If the property was owned as Tenants in Common, the surviving co-owner will receive their share of the value of the property, and the deceased’s share must be paid into their estate.

For free initial advice call our will advisors or request a callback and we will contact you.

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