Q. My widowed mother died recently, and as executor I am responsible for selling her property. Is there anything in particular I need to do?
A. If you intend to handle the whole process yourself, rather than employing a solicitor, the first thing you need to do is to apply for probate – the legal authority you must obtain from the court before you can begin administering your late mother’s estate. As a key part of this process, the property needs to be professionally valued. This would be necessary even if you weren’t intending to sell, since the entire estate has to be assessed for inheritance tax. What’s more, if some tax is deemed to be due, then it must be paid in full before probate can be granted. This can sometimes make things a bit complicated if you don’t have sufficient funds available to meet the tax liability, but if necessary your bank will normally advance the money, repayable via a charge on the property.
Most estate agents will happily provide a formal written valuation of the kind required for inheritance tax / probate purposes, in return for a small charge – typically around £50 - £150. Some may waive this fee, on the understanding that in due course you will instruct them to sell the property. Others will prefer to charge upfront for the service, and then deduct that amount from their commission, if and when they eventually achieve a sale. In any case, as executor, you are entitled to be reimbursed out of the estate for any such expenses of this kind that you incur during the course of your duties.
As for the actual contents of the property, these also need to be valued for inheritance tax purposes – although in the case of ordinary household goods and personal possessions, you can easily do this yourself by providing a lump sum figure.
Once you have applied for probate, you can go ahead and put the property on the market in the usual way – although contracts cannot be exchanged until probate is actually granted. You should therefore ensure that your buyer is fully aware of the situation.