By Connie Adair
Selling a family home after a parent dies can be an emotional and stressful time. Some heirs may be in a hurry to dispose of the property and move on. However, selling a property owned by an estate isn’t a quick or easy process, says lawyer Barry Fish of Fish and Associates in Thornhill, Ont., who has been practicing real estate and estate law since 1973. “You’re not going to list the home the next day,” he says.
Fish provides the following general advice based on Ontario estate and real estate law. It’s important to note that laws vary in different parts of the country, so ensure your client hires a lawyer who has experience in your province. Estate law is intricate, so you need to find an experienced lawyer to help you manoeuvre through the system, Fish says.
Assuming there’s a will, as soon as the death certificate is issued, he says, the power goes to the executor. The first thing the executor must do is determine what the assets are – the value of the property and “other stuff” such as bank accounts and investments.
This is when the executor will contact a real estate agent for an appraisal. Fish says as their agent, it’s important that you have experience in handling estate sales, or at the very least, that someone in your office has the necessary experience.
The executor will provide the appraisal and other financial information to the lawyer, who will prepare the application for probate. The time between filing for probate to the granting of probate can vary greatly, from a few weeks to six months or more, depending on the backlog. Some jurisdictions are quicker than others. (It depends on the jurisdiction where the deceased lived, not the location of the property.)
An experienced lawyer will save time, because, Fish says, the courts are picky and probate forms that are filled out incorrectly will be returned, which causes further delays.
While waiting for the granting of probate, the executor must tend to the property, ensuring the insurance is in good standing and bills are paid, Fish says. An oversight in paying utility bills, for example, could result in burst pipes and water damage if the heat is turned off in winter.
While waiting for the application for probate to be granted, the time should be spent wisely. This is the perfect time to speak to your client and come up with a plan to determine the best time to list the property for sale. Often it is 90 or 120 days before probate is expected.
Fish says properties can be listed any time during probate, but the listing agent should be aware of the delay due to probate.