Probate has to be granted

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QMy widowed mother died recently, and as executor I am responsible for selling the property. How should I go about it?

AThe first thing you will need to do is to have your late mother’s property professionally valued. This is something you will have to do even if you aren’t planning to sell it, since the entire estate must be assessed for inheritance tax – and any liability must be paid – before probate can be granted. (Probate, by the way, is the term for the legal authority you as the executor need to obtain before you can start distributing the estate.)

Most estate agents will provide formal valuations of the kind you require at a cost of between £50 and £150 – although many will waive this fee altogether if you subsequently market the property through them.

Others may charge you, but deduct the amount from their commission when the property is finally sold.

Obviously, if for some reason it is necessary to get more than one valuation, then it is likely that you will end up paying at least one fee.

However, as executor, you are entitled to be reimbursed by the estate for any such payments you are required to make.

As far as the actual contents of the property are concerned, these also need to be valued for probate purposes. In the case of ordinary run of the mill household goods and personal possessions, you can do this yourself by providing a lump sum figure (remember, this is current market value, NOT replacement value).

However, when it comes to any items of real value (as a rough guide, anything worth in excess of £500), then it’s advisable to have them professionally valued.

Once this process is complete and probate has been granted, you are then free to clear the property of all household goods and personal possessions, and either distribute them according to your mother’s wishes as stated in her will, or dispose of them in whichever way is appropriate.

Meanwhile, if you are selling the property, and time is critical, then the law allows you to put it on the market before probate is actually granted – although this must be in place before contracts can be exchanged. In such a case, you should ensure that your buyer is fully aware of the situation.