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When someone dies, there are lots of things to sort out. If the deceased person owned or part-owned a property, then this needs sorting as well.
Working in customer service, I'm often asked questions about what to do when a property owner dies. So I’m going to try to cover the main issues and answer common questions here.
Dealing with the deceased’s property can be relatively straightforward, but a solicitor is often involved in sorting out their affairs, including property. For that reason, people are not always certain what happens next.
Usually, the deceased’s will specifies a named person to deal with the estate (or the deceased’s next of kin if there is no will). They are responsible for the legal affairs and will often obtain ‘probate’ (where there is a will) or ‘letters of administration’ (no will), which enables them to act as the personal representative. Probate also enables the personal representative to transfer or sell the property.
If the property is to be sold, probate gives the personal representative the authority to sell it in accordance with the terms of the will. If the property is registered and the person who died was the sole owner, then the personal representative will often either Assent (form AS1) the property to the person(s) who inherits it (beneficiaries) or Transfer (form TR1) the property to someone else.
If the deceased was a joint owner and the partner is still alive, you would normally just register the death with us using form DJP, along with an official copy of the death certificate. Probate is not required to deal with the property but may be needed if the deceased’s estate warrants it.
Much will depend on what the deceased owned and what the beneficiaries intend to do with the property. Whatever is decided though does not have to be rushed and is usually dealt with several weeks after the death and the reading of the will.
We recently developed a short guide that gives more information about the forms you need to use to register the death, the supporting evidence you need to provide, and any fees payable.
Important points to remember
The main things to remember are that:
- when someone dies, there's usually no rush to sort out what happens with their property;
- if the property is registered in joint names, and the other person wants to remain there, you just need to notify us of the death;
- if the property is registered to a sole owner, you need to get probate before the property can be sold;
- if the property isn’t registered, a transfer of ownership will trigger the need to register it for the first time; and
- if you're unsure about any of this, get legal advice, as sorting out the affairs of the deceased can be quite tricky.