Removing Items Before Probate (UK): A Guide

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Removing Items Before Probate (UK): A Guide
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Losing a loved one can be a traumatic experience.

Dealing with the associated administration can compound the difficulty.

Completing the process efficiently and quickly helps you begin to move on.

One common question is: can a house be emptied before probate?

The answer isn’t straightforward. What should legally be done and what is commonly done are not always the same.

Read on to find out more.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process for handling a deceased person’s possessions and assets.

They take place when there are significant assets in someone’s estate. If there aren’t significant assets, probates aren’t necessary.

The entire process usually takes six months and a year to complete and involves:

Probates often involve properties because they are significant assets.

Can I empty a house before probate?

You should wait until probate is granted before emptying a property’s contents.

Nothing in the home should be removed before the details of the will are known.

However, in practice, this is not usually how things proceed.

Let’s look at two scenarios.

Example one: Siblings are joint executors

Two siblings, who are joint executors, are due to inherit their parent’s property worth £250,000.

The will does not refer to what should be done with the deceased’s personal property.

In this situation, the siblings often decide among themselves:

  • What they want to keep
  • What should be given to family members
  • What should be sold (and how the proceeds should be distributed)

This is usually done before probate so that no one will contest this. While this is not legally advisable, it is what often happens.

Example two: Complex will with many beneficiaries

A property’s value is over £400,000 and many objects have significant value inside the home.

In this situation, it would be best to wait until probate. Then you can:

  • Value the assets
  • Pay any inheritance tax that may be due
  • Distribute those assets according to the will

A complete inventory of the home’s contents will ensure that they are correctly valued.

Inheritance tax is payable on any estate valued at over £325,000. If you think the estate will be near this figure, don’t remove anything from the home. It could cause legal issues or family tensions – or both.

There isn’t usually capital gains tax to pay on an inherited property. However, this is dependent on whether the property has gained value during the probate period.

Selling assets could open you to legal challenges from other beneficiaries.

What happens to the contents of the house?

After probate is granted, the home’s contents can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This will be either according to the will or due to the rules of intestacy.

Siblings’ rights after parents’ deaths in the UK are highly relevant here.

If the beneficiaries are unable or unwilling to take possession of the items, they can be sold at auction. The proceeds go towards the estate.

Significant assets may also need to be sold if any outstanding debts are to be paid.

Low-value items not in the will are the responsibility of the executor/administrator.

Some companies provide a service for clearing a property if you want to avoid this.

Who is responsible for emptying the house after probate?

The executor of the will is responsible for emptying the house after probate.

Of course, they don’t need to clear the house personally —they can hire help to do this.

One potential benefit of emptying the house is that it may be easier to sell quickly when empty. (The executor is also responsible for selling the property).

Steps for cleaning a house after probate

Once the house’s contents have been distributed or sold, it is usually cleared and cleaned.

Of course, you don’t have to do this, but selling the property as it stands can lower its valuation.

Step 1: Decide what to keep

Deciding what to keep or throw away can be difficult.

You may be sentimentally attached to objects with little monetary value.

As with any home, you can leave basic furnishings in place, such as bedside tables, drawers, and beds. These may have low value and sentimentality.

Being furnished can add value to a property, making it seem warmer and more livable.

Step 2: Remove all rubbish

We’re talking about removing everything, not emptying bins. You may need to hire a skip for this.

Step 3: Deep cleaning

Next, you’ll want to deep clean, which you can either do yourself or hire a professional company to do for you.

This is especially important. After all, the property may be left unsold and unoccupied for months. You don’t want issues with the damp to build up and devalue a property, for example.

Step 4: Repair and redecorate

This is optional. Some don’t repair or decorate probate properties because they find it draining. Others want to ensure their loved one’s property stays intact.

Selling a house after probate?

Losing a loved one is a tough time for anyone. If you are looking to sell a house before probateWe Buy Any Home can help you do this.

We buy houses as quickly – and stress-free – as possible, with no hidden fees.

Contact us today to get a free, no-obligation cash offer.

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