Selling a House Through Probate vs. Outside of Probate

Working out if you can sell a house before probate after the passing of a loved one can be complicated. This is often compounded by the emotional toll of loss. This process often involves navigating the legal complexities of probate, which is the formal procedure for administering the estate of a deceased individual. However, there are instances when selling a property outside of probate may be feasible.

In our latest guide, we delve deeper into the distinctions between selling a house through probate and selling outside of probate in the UK. In doing so, we provide a thorough exploration of the considerations and implications associated with each scenario.

Understanding Probate

Probate is the legal mechanism through which the assets of a deceased person’s estate are managed and distributed. This process typically encompasses several essential steps, including:

  1. Validation of the Will: The first step in the probate process involves verifying the validity of the deceased person’s will, if one exists. This entails confirming that the document meets all legal requirements and was executed in accordance with applicable laws.
  2. Identification of Assets and Liabilities: The executor or administrator of the estate is tasked with identifying all assets and liabilities belonging to the deceased individual’s estate. This may encompass properties, bank accounts, investments, debts, and other financial obligations.
  3. Procurement of Grant of Probate: Once the assets and liabilities have been ascertained, the executor or administrator may need to apply for a Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry. This legal document grants the executor or administrator the authority to administer the estate, including the sale of property.
  4. Resolution of Debts and Taxes: Before any assets can be distributed to beneficiaries, outstanding debts and taxes owed by the estate must be settled. This may mean selling assets, liquidating investments, or utilising funds from the estate to discharge liabilities.
  5. Disbursement of Assets to Beneficiaries: Upon satisfaction of all debts and taxes, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions of the will or the laws of intestacy in the absence of a will.

Selling a House In Probate

When a property is part of an estate undergoing probate, the executor or administrator typically possesses the authority to sell the property on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. Selling a house in probate entails a series of significant considerations and has it’s own pros and cons:


  • Legal Clarity: Probate provides a structured legal framework for selling the property, offering clear guidelines and procedures for the executor or administrator to follow.
  • Protection of Interests: Probate ensures that the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries are safeguarded, as the sale process is overseen by the executor or administrator acting in their best interests.
  • Market Credibility: Properties sold through probate may be perceived as more credible in the market, as the sale process is conducted transparently and in accordance with legal requirements.


  • Time-Consuming Process: Probate proceedings can be time-consuming, potentially delaying the sale of the property and prolonging the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
  • Costs and Fees: Probate involves various costs and fees, including court fees, legal fees, and executor fees, which can diminish the overall value of the estate. Our Ultimate Guide on how to sell an inherited property explains more.
  • Public Record: Probate proceedings are a matter of public record, meaning that details of the estate, including the property sale, may become publicly accessible.

Selling a House before Probate

In certain circumstances, it may be viable to sell a house outside of probate, particularly if the property is held in joint tenancy or if the deceased individual’s estate qualifies for a small estates exemption. The pros and cons for selling a property outside of probate are:


  • Expedited Process: Selling a property outside of probate may speed up the house selling process via a quick sale, as it circumvents the need for obtaining a Grant of Probate and adhering to probate procedures.
  • Cost Savings: By avoiding probate proceedings, the estate may incur fewer costs and fees, preserving more of the property’s value for distribution to beneficiaries.
  • Privacy: Selling outside of probate may afford greater privacy, as the details of the property sale are not subjected to public scrutiny as they would be in probate proceedings.


  • Legal Complexity: Selling a property outside of probate may entail navigating complex legal requirements and procedures, particularly in cases involving joint tenancy or small estates exemptions.
  • Potential Disputes: Without the oversight provided by probate, there may be an increased risk of disputes arising among beneficiaries or other interested parties regarding the property sale.
  • Market Perception: Properties sold outside of probate may face skepticism in the market, as buyers may perceive the lack of probate oversight as a potential risk.

Executor and Administrator Considerations

Irrespective of whether the property is sold through probate or outside of probate, executors and administrators are entrusted with the responsibility of acting in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Fundamental considerations for executors and administrators involve:

  • Legal Obligations: Executors and administrators are bound by legal duties and obligations, including the duty to act impartially, prudently, and in accordance with the provisions of the will or the laws of intestacy.
  • Professional Guidance: Executors and administrators may benefit from seeking professional guidance from solicitors, accountants, and other experts proficient in probate and estate administration to navigate the process competently.
  • Transparent Communication: Maintaining transparent communication with beneficiaries is paramount. Executors and administrators should keep beneficiaries apprised of the probate process’s progression and any pivotal decisions, including property sale.


Selling a property following the passing of a loved one is a detailed process that requires meticulous consideration and navigation of legal complexities.

Whether opting to sell a property in probate or outside of probate, a thorough understanding of the legal requisites, procedures, and implications is critical to ensure a seamless and successful transaction. Executors and administrators are encouraged to seek professional advice and support to fulfil their duties effectively and safeguard the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you sell a house before probate?

Yes, it is possible to sell a house before probate under certain circumstances. Here are a few scenarios where this might be possible:

  1. Joint Tenancy: If the property is owned as joint tenants, the ownership automatically transfers to the surviving joint tenant(s) upon the death of one owner. In this case, probate may not be required to sell the property, as the surviving owner(s) have full legal authority to sell.
  2. Small Estate Exemption: In some jurisdictions, estates with assets below a certain threshold may qualify for a small estate exemption. This means that probate may not be required to transfer or sell assets, including real estate, within the estate.
  3. Beneficiary Agreement: If all beneficiaries of the estate agree to sell the property before probate is completed, it may be possible to proceed with the sale. However, this typically requires unanimous consent from all beneficiaries and may involve legal documentation to formalize the agreement.
  4. Executor’s Authority: In some cases, the executor named in the will may have limited authority to sell assets before probate is granted. This authority is typically granted by the court and may be subject to certain conditions or restrictions.

It’s important to note that the specific laws and procedures regarding the sale of property before probate vary depending on the jurisdiction and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to consult with a legal professional experienced in probate and real estate law to understand the options and requirements for your particular situation.