How to assist in the sale of a deceased estate as a lawyer

How to assist in the sale of a deceased estate as a lawyer

When a person we love passes away, the administration associated with settling their estate can be just as traumatising as their death. While having to contend with emotions that are running high, the family of a deceased person will also have to make sure that all financial matters related to their loved one have been sorted out. The sale of a deceased person’s home is one of these tasks.

Selling a property can be trying in the best of conditions, but doing so while grieving can prove even more difficult for most people. With the help of a skilled, experienced and empathetic real estate, however, the executors of a deceased person’s will, their family or legal representative have a far easier time making sure that the deceased’s wishes are respected and that their final affairs are settled as soon as possible.

If you are a lawyer who has been assigned to help settle the estate of someone who has recently passed away, this is what you need to be aware of.

What you need to know before selling a deceased estate

For all intents and purposes, the process of selling a deceased estate is very similar to selling a property if the owner is still alive, except for a few administrative additions.

First off, with regards to the seller: as the legal owner of the property has passed away, they cannot be the seller of the property, for obvious reasons. In this case, the person who is the executor of the deceased’s estate will be the owner of the property and will, thus, be the person who is selling the home.

Selling a deceased estate is something that needs to be done systematically to ensure that the sale is done according to state guidelines. As such, the steps mentioned here may differ in the state where the deceased’s property is located.

Legal guidelines for the sale of a deceased estate can be found online for properties in Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Lawyers assisting in the sale of properties should be well acquainted with the legislation related to deceased property as it pertains to the state they do business in.

When selling a deceased estate, the following process should be followed.

1. Get the paperwork in order

First off, the executor (that is, the person that the deceased has appointed to execute their last wishes, as set out in their final will) will have to apply for a grant of probate. What exactly the grant of probate is will be explained later in this article. If a couple were both joint tenants of the property and the home is also in the name of the remaining partner, it is not necessary to apply for a grant of probate. After the grants of probate or of letters of administration have been awarded, the title name must be changed from the name of the deceased to the name of the executor.

2. Get the property ready for the market

Taking care to keep all beneficiaries of the will informed during the entire process, the executor (or the remaining partner) will start getting quotations for renovations and/or repairs to the property. In this regard, having a real estate agent helping to sell the home is of cardinal importance, as these experts of the property market will already have a list of reputable contractors handy. Once the executor has decided which contactor(s) to use, they should start getting the home ready to be put on the market. This also includes things like preparing the online listing and staging the home correctly in order to catch the eye of the largest group of potential buyers.

As soon as the property has been sold, the executor is then tasked with distributing the funds acquired through the sale of the deceased’s property to the beneficiaries outlined in the will of the person that has passed.

3. Transparency about the property cost and valuation is key

As mentioned earlier, it is vital that the executor of the deceased’s will keep all beneficiaries of the will informed about the process. Selling a deceased property can take anything from six months to two years, depending on the paperwork involved and as such, transparency is key. This also includes getting more than one property appraisal from a number of real estate agents in order to ensure that the value of the property is realistic.

Auctions are popular choices for selling a deceased property as well, as multiple beneficiaries are often named in a will. This method of sale is transparent and allows all the parties that are involved to witness the negotiations as they take place.

4. Transfer of ownership needs to be organised 

Before a property can be sold or transferred to the buyer, the ownership of the home needs to be transferred to the personal representative of the deceased, the executor of the will, or to the joint tenant of the property.

In order to do this, the executor or the deceased’s representative will have to apply for a grant of probate. Officially called a grant of representation, the grant of probate is a document that confirms the appointment of the executor, and legally gives the executor permission to administer a deceased person’s estate and distribute it to their beneficiaries according to their will. Should a will not be in place at the time of a person’s death, an alternative document, called the grant of letters of administration, will need to be applied for.

Getting the grant of probate usually takes approximately four weeks, but the time may vary.

5. Can you sell a house while going through probate?

The executor of the deceased’s estate or their representative will be the seller of the property, and may still advertise the home and even sell it while awaiting the grant of probate. While the seller may enter into a contract of sale while waiting for the grant of probate, ownership of the home cannot be transferred until the grant of probate has been acquired. In this case, it will be noted in the contract of sale that the property is being sold, “subject to a grant of probate”.

6. Transferring assets to beneficiaries

An executor may choose to transfer the deceased’s assets to their beneficiaries, or not. Transferring assets to beneficiaries does complicate the sale of the property, though. If assets are instead sold during the administration of the estate, capital gains or tax losses can be settled through the sale of the home.

7. Withdrawing from responsibilities 

Being the executor of someone’s will is a significant responsibility. It is best practice to renounce the role of executor even before a grant of probate is applied for, should a person feel they are not willing to carry this responsibility. If this is not done, the grant of probate will need to be revoked and a new executor for the estate needs to be appointed. This can be a tedious process, which can markedly delay the process of selling the property and settling the deceased’s estate.

Find a real estate agent that can handle the process

Whether you are a lawyer assisting in the sale of a deceased’s property, the executor of a will, or a spouse who needs to sell the family home, having a real estate agent by your side will make the process far less hassled and much more organised. Additionally, real estate agents, by way of their thorough understanding of the property market they do business in, know exactly how to secure a sale that guarantees a good profit on the home.

Real estate agents will treat executors just as they would any other seller, advising on renovations and repairs, organising all marketing related to the home, and generally assisting in the substantial paperwork associated with the sale of a property.

If a person’s expertise is not related to the buying and selling of real estate, it is always the better decision to enlist the services of a trustworthy real estate agent to secure the sale of a deceased property.


Selling a deceased property isn’t so different from selling any other home, although it does come with some additional administration. Once the grant of probate has been acquired, though, the executor or other representative of the deceased will, in essence, become the seller of the home.

An empathetic real estate agent is exceptionally important when it comes to selling a deceased property. Bereaved family members will say a final goodbye once the home is ultimately sold, and this can be a very emotional time. The right real estate agent will know how to navigate the emotions while still aiming for the most profitable outcome.

With an online agent finder like Perfect Agent, real estate agents are recommended based on one’s specific needs and requirements. Recommendations from Perfect Agent are worth their weight in gold, whether you’re a lawyer, executor, or family member of a person that has recently passed away. Contact Perfect Agent today to find an agent you can trust.