Losing a loved one can not only be a traumatic experience but there is also a lot of administration to deal with. Many people want to get the process completed as soon as possible so they can start to grieve properly and move on with their life.
That often begs the question of can a house be emptied before probate? The answer isn’t straightforward, as there is a contradiction between what should legally be done, and what is commonly done. Read on as we explain.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that happens after someone dies to ensure that their assets go where they should. The process involves valuing their estate, paying any tax/debts due and then distributing their assets. It may therefore involve selling an inherited house.
Probate isn’t always required if there aren’t significant assets. However, you’re probably reading this as you are dealing with the property of a loved one. In this case, probate would always be required unless the property was held in joint names.
Can a House Be Emptied Before Probate?
Legally, you should wait until probate has been granted before emptying the contents of a property. While that’s the legal position, what happens, in reality, is often quite different. However, nothing in the home should be emptied before the details of the will are known.
Let’s look at two scenarios. Firstly, two siblings, who are joint executors, are due to inherit their parent’s property worth £250,000. The will makes no reference to what should be done with their personal property.
What often happens in this situation is the siblings would decide among themselves what they want to keep, what should be given to family members, and what should be sold. This is often done before probate.
The reason is that no one will contest this, as the benefactors of the property have already agreed on what should be done. While this is technically not legally advisable, it’s common sense.
Here’s another scenario. There is a complex will with many beneficiaries. The value of the property is over £400,000, and inside the home were many objects that have significant value.
In this situation, it would be best to wait until probate. You can then value the assets, pay any inheritance tax that may be due, and then distribute those assets in accordance with the will. This will reduce the chance of any legal disputes.
Inheritance tax is payable on any estate valued at over £325,000. Therefore, if you think that the estate will be around or over this figure, then it makes sense to wait before removing any contents. In this instance it is best to note down a complete inventory of the contents of the home and ensure they are properly valued.
As a basic rule, don’t remove anything from the home unless you’re 100% sure it won’t cause any legal issues or family tensions. While not illegal to physically move assets, you can open yourself to legal challenges from other potential beneficiaries if you do.
What Happens to the Contents of the House?
After probate is granted, any contents of the home can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This will be either in accordance with the will or due to the rules of intestacy. The property rights for siblings may also be highly relevant here.
If the beneficiaries are unable or unwilling to take possession of the items, they can be sold at auction, with the proceeds going towards the estate. Assets also may need to be sold if there are any outstanding debts to be paid.
Low-value items not mentioned in the will are the responsibility of the executor/administrator. These can either be claimed as their own, sold off or disposed of. There are companies out there who will clear a property if you want to avoid this.
Steps For Cleaning a House After Probate
Once the contents of the house have been distributed or sold, the house will usually be cleared and cleaned. Of course, you don’t have to do this but selling the property as it stands can result in a lower valuation.
Step 1 – Decide What to Keep
Deciding on what to keep or throw away can be a difficult task. You may find attachment to objects that have very little actual value but have high sentimental value. The best example of this is clothing.
As with any home, you can leave basic furnishings in place, such as bedside tables, drawers and beds which may have low value and low sentimentality. Items such as this can aid in a sale as they make the property seem warmer and more livable.
Step 2 – Remove All Rubbish
We’re not just talking about taking out the bins here, but removing everything that neither you or a prospective new owner would want. Clearing out the fridge is an obvious step, but you’ll also want to remove the likes of toiletries, pictures, newspapers etc.
Step 3 – Deep Cleaning
Next, you’ll want to deep clean, which you can either do yourself or hire a professional company to do it for you. This is especially important as the property may be left unsold and unoccupied for months. You don’t want the likes of bacteria or mold growing in the meantime.
Step 4: Repair and Redecorate
This is optional. Some people don’t want to go to the effort as they find it emotionally draining, whereas others are determined to ensure their loved one’s property doesn’t go undersold. Check that any repairs need to be made and redecorate any areas that you may feel are outdated.
We know that losing a loved one is a tough time for anyone, so at We Buy Any Home, we’re here to help you sell your house fast, with as little stress possible and no hidden fees. Contact us today to get a free cash offer.