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  • Writer's pictureRobert Taylor

How to sell a house when someone dies

Suffering the loss of a loved one is a difficult time on its own, without the added stress of knowing what to do with their house. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, here is a short guide on where to start. 


It will have to be established if the deceased owned the house outright in his or her sole name or whether the house was jointly owned.

If jointly owned:

There are two different ways in which property can be jointly owned:

1. As “Joint Tenants”   or    

2. As “Tenants in Common”

Rands Solicitors will be able to let you know which of these formats of ownership applies on inspection of the title deeds, which usually we can download from the Land Registry on your behalf.

Joint Tenants

If the first of 2 joint tenants dies the house will automatically and immediately pass to the surviving Joint Tenant. No formal transfer deed is required. It is though advisable to submit a copy of the death certificate to the Land Registry to enable their records to be updated.

Tenants in Common

If the first of 2 tenants in common dies the house does not automatically pass to the surviving tenant in common. The deceased share in the house will pass to whomever the deceased has left his or her share to by will or other legal documentation. Again, Rands Solicitors will be able to advise you in this eventuality.

Sole / Single Ownership

If the house was in the sole and absolute ownership of the deceased it should be established whether the deceased had made a Will.  

If there is a will

The Will should state who the deceased would like to deal with their house and estate. This person is known as an Executor or Executors if more than one. The will deals not only with the deceased’s house but also his or her “estate” which includes all money, property or possessions belonging to the deceased. 

An Executor is responsible for collecting and valuing the assets, paying off any debts and Inheritance tax that is due and then distributing the estate in accordance with the Will. 

Whether or not the house needs to be sold will depend on the wishes of the beneficiaries. If the beneficiaries want the property to be transferred into their name(s), then it will not need to be sold. There must then however be prepared a formal transfer deed in favour of the beneficiaries and this transfer deed must be registered at the Land Registry.

If they do not wish for the property to be transferred to them, then the property will need to be sold. It is the executor that will instruct estate agents and solicitors and be responsible for signing sale contracts and all required legal documentation.


If the deceased was the sole owner of the property, then before the house can be sold a Grant of Probate will be needed. 

If you’re an Executor, you can apply for Probate yourself or use a solicitor. The Grant of Probate gives the legal right to deal with someone’s estate and will need to be issued before an exchange of contracts or completion can take place. 

Any mortgages or loans secured on the property would need to be repaid from the sale proceeds on completion.

If the Deceased did not leave a will

In this case the “Laws of Intestacy” will apply. These laws dictate who will inherit the deceased’s estate (including the house) and who can apply to the Probate court to deal with the deceased’s estate including the sale of the property.

Rands Solicitors can also advise you as to the effect of the Intestacy Laws on the individual assets and any house owned by the deceased. Where there is a will it is necessary to apply to the court for a “Grant of Probate”. Where there is no will then the person dealing with the deceased estate must obtain a “Grant of Letters of Administration” from the probate court.

Once the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration has been obtained the sale process doesn’t differ that much from an ordinary sale. 

It will be necessary for the Executor/Administrator to set up a separate bank account so that on completion the sale proceeds can be paid into this account.  An account held as an Executor account for the deceased is most suitable. This is to ensure that the Executor can clearly account for all monies received and paid in respect of the deceased estate. Keeping a clear record of the work done so they can answer any questions about how they administered the estate if required. 

The process of dealing with Probate/Administration and then selling the house and distributing an estate can be an incredibly stressful time. Making sure you’re aware of the process of how to sell a property after a death can help to alleviate some of that stress and uncertainty. 

Here at Rands Solicitors our team of conveyancers work closely alongside our specialist Probate Department to clearly explain matters and take care of all the legalities on your behalf.  

For any further enquiries or advice please do not hesitate us

 Contact our experts for further information

Robert Taylor:     Telephone 01724 786272

Megan Taylor:    Telephone 01724 786272


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