Death of a property owner
4th April, 2015
What do you do when a property owner dies? Ward Hadaway Property Solicitor Claire Simmons, assisted by the firm's wills and trusts team, looks at dealing with some of the main issues.
When someone dies, as well as the emotional issues, there are inevitably lots of practical issues which need to be addressed and dealing with the deceased’s property is one of them.
If the deceased has left a Will, it will specify a named person to deal with the estate or if there is no Will, then it will be the deceased’s next of kin. They are responsible for the deceased’s legal affairs including their property and are known as either an executor when there is a Will or an administrator if there is no Will.
If the property is held in joint names and the co-owner is still alive, it may simply be a case of either notifying the Land Registry of the death if title to the property is registered or lodging the death certificate with the title deeds if title to the property is unregistered.
If the property is held in the sole name of the deceased or the property was held as tenants in common whereby the property would not automatically pass to a surviving joint owner, or the deceased held assets typically worth £5,000 or more with financial institutions, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration will be required and often a solicitor will become involved to deal with this aspect.
Much will depend upon what the beneficiaries will want to do with the property. If the property is to be sold, the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration gives the personal representatives authority to sell the property.
If one or more of the beneficiaries inherit the property and decide they want to keep it and the person who died was a sole owner then the personal representatives will often Assent the property to the person(s) who inherit it.
If the title to the property is unregistered and the beneficiary intends to keep the property, this will trigger the need for the property to be registered at the Land Registry who will charge a fee to deal with the registration based on a scale of fees depending on the value of the property.
Unfortunately, properties that are empty are vulnerable to fraudsters. However, there are ways to help to protect the property from fraud. For example, you can voluntarily register a property with an unregistered title at the Land Registry.
In addition, you can sign up to get property alerts at the Land Registry website if someone applies to change the register of your property, e.g. someone tries to use your property for a mortgage. This will not automatically block any changes to the register but will alert you when something changes so that you can take action. You can get alerts for up to 10 properties for which there is no Land Registry fee.
You can also place a restriction against the title to the property at the Land Registry to stop the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a solicitor or conveyancer certifies the application was made by you.
These are just some of the practical things which need to be considered when someone dies and you should always seek advice from your solicitor as to what to do.
For more information on the issues raised by this article, please get in touch.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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