Selling a House in Probate
Real estate probate sounds complicated when it first passes through your ears. If you find yourself in charge of a probate sale in Houston, you may initially be overwhelmed. Most people don’t have experience going through probate, so naturally it could result in a lot of stress and questions. The best way to get through probate is to break it down step by step, starting with understanding what it is and is not. A few questions to start… what are the steps to selling a house in probate, what is a probate home and what does a probate sale look like?
A property may go through probate when someone dies (i.e. decedent). The decedent leaves behind property and assets that must be dealt with accordingly to their wishes The deceased likely left behind a will, appointing an executor to distribute assets as laid out in the will. Together, with one of the top probate lawyers in Houston and the local probate court, an executor sale should be handled in a legal manner. When it comes down to the probate sale process, there is much to do. This post will help inform you on the probate process.
Getting Started on Selling a House Under Probate
The probate house sale process could be complicated, especially when you consider the different parties involve. For example, when a property owner passes away, their assets are evaluated and reviewed by the local probate court. It is the probate court that ultimately approves the final ruling on the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.
However, when an owner dies intestate (i.e. without a will), or without bequeathing their property, the court plays a much bigger role in the probate process. This is another reason one should not miss the opportunity to make a will.
What is the purpose of probate?
Real estate probate works to ensure the deceased’s debts, bills, and credit cards are paid off. Additionally, probate allocates assets, and transfers titles to beneficiaries. Probate is also the court’s way of ensuring there is no fraud involved.
If a House is in Probate, can it be Sold?
The short answer is yes, but with limitations. As mentioned, the probate house sale process can be confusing, and could get more complicated with each additional party involved. This could include a probate realtor, probate attorney, creditors, probate court, family members and more. Some estates are simple and can be dealt with outside of court saving the decedent’s family thousands of dollars in legal fees along with time. A lot of people jump right into probate without assessing the simplicity of the estate. When we speak with executors about selling a house under probate, we first determine the simplicity of the estate. With a simple estate, Fink Buys Houses can buy the home as-is and can transfer the title legally through our title company. Keep in mind that a lot of times going through probate is necessary and cannot be avoided.
How long does probate take to complete?
There are many steps involved in the probate property sale procedure. As far as timeline goes, it is not an easy thing to predict. Probate sale laws vary from state to state, you will want to find information from your local probate court. Typically, start to finish probate takes anywhere from a couple of months to 24-months – sometimes more, depending on circumstances. Factors that affect probate are:
- Court availability – For example, COVID19 pandemic slowed probate courts down significantly in Harris County.
- Attorneys – They play a major role in how fast or slow probate could be. A busy attorney could delay getting your probate documents filed in a timely manner.
- Family – Unfortunately, family can significantly slow or speed up the process. In many cases, they completely lock up the process because of feuds and disputes.
- Missing information/documents – This could be hard to reach lenders and lien holders in addition to missing wills, missing loan documents, and unrecorded real estate documentation.
Who all is involved in a successful probate sale?
- Probate Attorney
- Probate Court
- Mortgage Companies
- Property buyer
- Probate real estate agents
Hiring Real Estate Probate Attorneys
If this is your first time serving as executor, it is highly recommended that you hire a top probate lawyer, and we mean it! You need to make sure you hire a lawyer that specializes in probate. There are lots of lawyers that will take on probate, but they’re not specialized in it; those are typically the attorneys you want to avoid. They’re not bad people, but they’re not the right person for the job. Follow this link for information on a dependable Houston probate attorney that you can trust to help your probate proceed smoothly.
Potential Issues that May Arise During Probate
In addition to the issues we mentioned, let us discuss relevant probate issues and how to conquer them as they come up.
Executor Refuses the Role as Requested by the Decedent
When someone takes the time to create a will, they almost always name an executor to manage assets once they pass. Naturally, for some, this is a heavy role that not everyone is equipped for or willing to take on. From personal emotions and family circumstances to the mile-long task list involved, sometimes one does not have the time and resources to handle a probate sale. While most executors do carry out their role, when an executor opts out, the court will take over in appointing someone to administer the probate house sale process.
Dispute Over Estate Values
It is essential to accurately value money, property, and other assets to avoid several potential issues. There are many reasons why having a detailed and accurate valuation is important, especially when it comes to taxes. It is not unheard of for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ask for estate taxes. We are not tax advisors and highly recommend you seek professional help from a CPA and attorney that deal with estate taxes. Click here IRS information regarding probate.
Probate can be VERY Time Consuming
Selling a house in probate can consume your time daily, however, that pales in comparison to how long the probate process can take as a whole. As we mentioned prior, the length of time a probate sale can last varies from state to state according to law. The assessment of assets and property by the probate court can turn up issues such as liens and distant heirs, which ultimately extends the process.
Probate Attorneys Cost Money
It is no secret that legal assistance from a lawyer can be quite pricey, probate attorneys included. On average, a probate attorney charges clients between $250 and $300 per day! If you’re in Houston, like Fink Buys Houses, it is so important as executor to research Houston probate attorneys. When you consider how long the probate sale process can last, the amount you could end up spending on your attorney alone could wipe out any proceeds that the beneficiaries get.
Probate Homes Can Sit Vacant for Long Periods
Homes in probate could sit empty and unoccupied for a long time. Homes require a good deal of upkeep and regular maintenance; it is easy for property under probate to get damaged and neglected. Depending on the circumstances, probate property can lose value in the long run should it incur significant damage or decay. It’s important that as an executor, the property is properly insured for vacancy and that utilities are turned off if the home will be vacant for a long time. Speak with an insurance agent about getting a vacancy policy.
Mortgage and Bills Do Not Stop During Probate
By now you have likely noticed a theme here—money. Being the executor means paying the bills left behind by the decedent, mortgage included. These responsibilities mount on top of handling debts, taxes, attorney and probate fees. If you are probating a property, contact all the creditors and lien holders and let them know that you’re in probate. You could potentially agree to a forbearance or a deferment. The problem that arises for executors is that they have to pay for the bills out of their pockets and get paid out by the estate once probate is finished. Ask yourself how much money can you afford to spend on keeping up with the bills and how long can you wait for a reimbursement?
Unable to Contact Heir and Heir Disputes
If the heirs named in a decedent’s will cannot be located, hiring one of the top probate lawyers in Houston can help with finding the heir. A good probate attorney will work hard to find the heirs, contacting the social security administration and obtaining their last known address and contact information.
An executor could run into heir disputes and this is very problematic for the completion of probate. Often, these heirs/beneficiaries are not happy with the way the executor handles the process or not happy with the will and want to legally dispute the executor’s decisions. Heirs will often mention verbal agreements they had with the decedent and that causes the animosity going forward.
Is Probate Required in the State of Texas?
While it is not always required of every estate, most are required to enter probate by law. However, if the estate in question is simple with no presence of children, family cooperation, and known liens, then an heirship affidavit may suffice. It is important to keep in mind, however, this is not always the case as it varies from scenario to scenario. If the property can be sold without probate, then the sale turns out to be quick, and convenient with few hassles.
Keep in mind that in the state of Texas, an heir and/or executor has exactly four years from the date of death to officially file for probate. If for some reason the executor fails to file the will within this time, laws on intestacy (absence of a will), ultimately govern how property and assets are dealt with. Unfortunately, in these cases, both time and money add up until the end.
What if my Probate Home is Dated or in Bad Shape?
When selling a house in probate, the property is not always going to be in great shape. Often, probate properties are not in good condition. It is well known that to get top dollar for a property, the property needs to be modernized and looking good. As a result, investing in the property and maintaining the property will help the estate get the best price for the property.
In many cases, executors and heirs do not want to fix the home up. They don’t have the time, inclination or the finances to deal with contractors and the repairs that are required. Additionally, the house might be too rough to list or the family prefers a private sale. In that case, this is where Fink Buys Houses is a good candidate.
Fink Buys Houses has purchased several homes from probate in the past. Why? Because with Fink Buys Houses, you face an easy probate house sale process that demands much less of the executor and the estate. These are some of the benefits in choosing to sell your probate property to Fink Buys Houses.
- Hassle-free sale
- Zero commission fees charged
- Deal with a reputable professional that is a licensed real estate agent
- The probate home can be sold ‘as is’ no matter its condition. That means, no repairs required on the home.
- We can buy the home with unwanted belongings.
- We can help set up appraisals, estate sales, and moving/storage services.
Estate Sale Companies
Dealing with items left behind can be overwhelming without some sort of help. Luckily, estate sale companies can be greatly helpful in terms of getting you the best price for your estates’ personal property. A dependable estate sale company knows the proper pricing of items and handles the marketing, doing all they can to attract a plethora of promising buyers.
While selling the contents of an entire estate is overwhelming at first, the professionals at an estate sale company can ultimately relieve this stress, helping to organize a highly efficient sale with plenty of interested parties looking to buy. The money received from an estate sale goes back to the estate, however estate sale companies charge 25-40% of the total sales for their services. Most reputable estate sale companies get booked months in advance, make sure you speak with one at the beginning of the probate process.
Reaching the End of Probate
As you approach the end of the probate process, there are a few final decisions to be made to close out probate. One of the more prominent questions is whether you plan on holding onto the estate or selling property as executor. Once you decide, either way, there are some steps required to ensure everything is done by the book. Let us begin with the assumption that you are planning on selling a house through probate. Your first step is to choose between selling a house in probate with the help of a probate investor like Fink Buys Houses or a probate real estate agent. If the probate home is in good, livable condition, then it is an excellent candidate for immediate listing with a real estate agent. If you find yourself ready to list your probate home, finding a reputable probate realtor in the Houston area is imperative for a hassle-free sale. There are several agents we work with that are great for listing your probate home. Each agent is an expert in a specific location:
- West Houston – Michael Borrel with Keller Williams Memorial
- Central Houston – David Batagower with NB Elite Realty
Selling a house in probate requires close attention, legal aid and a plan for what to do with the house. If you find yourself named executor, don’t get overwhelmed. Take it all step by step. Assess the simplicity of the estate and take the easiest route first. You can call us at or reach out to a real estate agent for guidance. If probate is unavoidable, then consult with the top probate attorney. Speak with estate sale companies to schedule them in advance if needed. Make sure you speak with the insurance companies, mortgage companies, HOAs, property tax assessors, utilities companies and creditors to get a handle on the financial requirements. Staying organized is key, and you could have a smooth process by following the process and getting everything in a timely manner.