Selling probate property (real estate) involves a series of steps carefully regulated, managed, and monitored by the probate court. There are strict deadlines and specialized documents to be used, and the court must oversee the entire sale process including marketing, negotiations, and actual sale. In addition, there will be a number of principals involved in the process – for example, the executor or administrator, probate attorney, real estate agent(s), and buyers/bidders – who all have to follow strict guidelines. The process is very complex and can be quite lengthy. So here are the basics of how to sell your probate property in Southern California.
Contact a Probate Attorney
Your first step in trying to sell your probate property in Southern California is to contact a reputable probate attorney to represent you throughout the probate process. Your attorney will be your ally and partner through all the proceedings, taking care of such things as filing court documents, handling insurance and income tax issues, and much more. Besides taking care of complex legal matters, she will provide invaluable advice to help you navigate the complex process.
File Petition to Begin Probate Process
Before you can do anything else, you will have to file a petition with the local court office to get the probate process started. And “local” means the court office where the deceased lived (something to keep in mind if you live in a different city or out of state). In addition, you’ll have to inform all designated beneficiaries and heirs that you are petitioning to begin probate. This includes providing them with the court date of the probate hearing, which allows them an opportunity to bring objections (if they should happen to have any).
Inventory the Estate and Pay Creditors
The next preparatory step to sell your probate property in Southern California involves inventorying the estate and then paying off creditors with legitimate claims. This part of the process will require you to gather and review all the pertinent documents, such as will, funeral arrangement/burial directions, power of attorney, all records of assets, and all debt claims. After conducting this inventory (to determine exactly what assets the estate has), you will next need to notify all the deceased’s creditors. Finally, the estate’s assets are used to pay off all legitimate debts.
Legally Transfer Assets to Beneficiaries
The final step before you can sell your probate property is to transfer assets to the appropriately designated beneficiaries. Then when real property remains after assets have been transferred, you can begin the process of selling that property. And this too involves another series of court-regulated steps.
Selling Probate Property in Southern California
To sell your probate property, you’ll need to follow these four basic steps (though it can be much more involved and your agent can help through it):
AGAIN RETAIN AN ATTORNEY
Just as with initiating probate, selling probate property entails a lot of court involvement. So you will need an attorney who is experienced in both probate and real estate.
DETERMINE PROPERTY VALUE
Before listing the property, you will certainly need to get it appraised in order to determine fair market value. Your probate real estate agent will be able to run a comparative analysis to arrive at this valuation. (Call (805) 257-5780 to find out more about agents with probate experience.)
GET COURT PERMISSION
In most states, you will have to get approval from the probate court in order to list and sell the property. The exact process may vary from state to state, but you will almost always have to get this approval.
LIST FOR AUCTION
Most of the time, probate properties have to go to auction. You will need to locate, then, a qualified auction company that is licensed as both an auctioneer and a real estate agent/broker.
GET COURT APPROVAL FOR SALE
Then when you receive an offer/bid, you will need to get court approval to finalize a sale. Typically, court approval requires a bid of at least 75% of the property’s recorded value.
Administration Rights to Sell Probate Property
And then there’s this final wrinkle you’ll encounter when trying to sell your probate property in Southern California. And that is the issue of administration rights
Here’s how one top real estate site explains independent administration rights: “[i]f you as the executor have been granted independent administration rights, the probate property sale proceeds much in the same way as a traditional property sale. You have the freedom to set the list price, list the property on your timeline, and accept on offer without interference from the probate court.”
If, however, you (the executor) have been granted dependent administration rights, there will be an additional court-monitored hearing – a court confirmation hearing. You will have to hire a probate agent before this hearing who will list the property at no less than 90% of market value. And then when you receive an offer, the probate court will have to confirm it. In some states, you may even have to remarket the property for 30-45 days at the offer price before you present it to the court. Finally, at the confirmation hearing, the judge may not confirm the accepted offer, but may then take offers/bids from buyers at the hearing.
The Agent Edge
It should be pretty plain by now that if you need to sell your probate property in Southern California, you also need a real estate agent experienced in probate sales. The whole process is way too complex to trust it to any run-of-the-mill agent.