Can I Sell a House Left to Me in a Will?

Inheriting a house can be a complex and emotional experience. Whether the property is a cherished family home or an unexpected asset, selling a house left to you in a will involves a series of legal, financial, and practical steps. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the process of selling an inherited house in the UK, covering everything from probate to tax implications, and offering practical advice to help you navigate this often daunting task.

Understanding Probate

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, which includes validating the will (if there is one), settling debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. If you have inherited a property, obtaining probate is usually the first step before you can sell the house.

How to Obtain Probate

  1. Determine If Probate is Needed:
    • If the property was jointly owned, it might automatically pass to the surviving co-owner, and probate may not be required.
    • For solely owned properties, probate is generally necessary.
  2. Apply for Probate:
    • Complete the probate application forms (PA1P if there is a will, PA1A if there is no will).
    • Submit the will and death certificate along with the application.
    • Pay the probate fee (£273 as of 2024, with exemptions for estates valued at less than £5,000).
  3. Receive the Grant of Probate:
    • Once the application is approved, you will receive a Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration if there is no will), which gives you the legal authority to manage the estate.

Valuing the Inherited Property

Why Accurate Valuation is Important

An accurate valuation of the inherited property is crucial for several reasons:

  • Determining the estate’s value for probate and inheritance tax purposes.
  • Setting a realistic sale price.
  • Avoiding potential disputes among beneficiaries.

How to Get a Valuation

  1. Professional Valuation:
    • Hire a chartered surveyor or an estate agent to provide a professional valuation. It’s advisable to get at least three valuations to ensure accuracy.
  2. Comparative Market Analysis:
    • Review recent sales of similar properties in the area to gauge the market value.
  3. Consider Improvements and Repairs:
    • Take into account any improvements needed to maximize the sale price or any repairs that might affect the property’s value.

Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

Inheritance Tax is payable on the estate of a deceased person if its value exceeds a certain threshold.

  1. Thresholds and Rates:
    • The standard IHT threshold is £325,000. Anything above this amount is taxed at 40%.
    • There is an additional Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) of £175,000 if the property is passed to direct descendants (children or grandchildren).
  2. Paying IHT:
    • IHT must be paid before the estate is distributed. It can be paid in installments over ten years if the property is not sold immediately.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Capital Gains Tax may be payable if the property is sold for more than its probate value.

  1. Primary Residence Exemption:
    • If the inherited property becomes your main residence, you might be exempt from CGT upon sale.
  2. Calculating CGT:
    • CGT is calculated based on the difference between the sale price and the probate value.
    • The current CGT rates are 18% for basic rate taxpayers and 28% for higher rate taxpayers on residential property gains.
  3. Allowances and Reliefs:
    • Each individual has an annual CGT allowance (£12,300 as of 2024).
    • Consider any allowable expenses, such as costs of selling the property, which can be deducted from the gains.

Preparing the Property for Sale

Legal Preparations

  1. Transfer the Title:
    • Ensure the property title is transferred into your name before selling. This is usually done during the probate process.
  2. Resolve Any Legal Issues:
    • Address any legal encumbrances, such as unresolved mortgages, liens, or disputes among beneficiaries.

Practical Preparations

  1. Clean and Declutter:
    • Remove personal items and unnecessary clutter to make the property more appealing to potential buyers.
  2. Repairs and Maintenance:
    • Fix any obvious defects, such as broken windows or leaking roofs, to enhance the property’s value.
  3. Staging the Property:
    • Consider staging the house to highlight its best features and create a welcoming atmosphere.

Selling the Inherited Property

Choosing the Sale Method

  1. Traditional Estate Agent:
    • Pros: Professional marketing, access to a wide network of buyers, handling of viewings and negotiations.
    • Cons: Estate agent fees (typically 1-3% of the sale price).
  2. Online Estate Agent:
    • Pros: Lower fees, convenience.
    • Cons: Less personalized service, limited local market knowledge.
  3. Auction:
    • Pros: Quick sale, certainty of sale date.
    • Cons: Potentially lower sale price, auction fees.
  4. Private Sale:
    • Pros: No agent fees, direct negotiation.
    • Cons: Requires significant effort, potentially limited buyer reach.

Marketing the Property

  1. High-Quality Photos:
    • Professional photos can significantly enhance the appeal of your property listing.
  2. Compelling Description:
    • Write a detailed and attractive description highlighting key features and benefits.
  3. Multiple Platforms:
    • List the property on various platforms, including estate agent websites, property portals (Rightmove, Zoopla), and social media.

Legal Process of Selling


  1. Hire a Solicitor:
    • Engage a conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the sale, including preparing the contract and managing the transfer of funds.
  2. Drafting the Contract:
    • The contract of sale will include terms agreed upon with the buyer, property details, and completion date.
  3. Property Information Pack:
    • Provide necessary documents such as the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), title deeds, and any warranties or guarantees.

Exchange and Completion

  1. Exchange of Contracts:
    • Once all terms are agreed upon and the buyer’s funds are in place, contracts are exchanged, and the sale becomes legally binding.
  2. Completion:
    • On the agreed completion date, the remaining balance of the purchase price is transferred, and the property’s ownership is officially transferred to the buyer.

Dealing with Emotional Aspects

Coping with Grief

Inheriting a property often comes with emotional challenges, particularly if the property belonged to a close family member.

  1. Seek Support:
    • Talk to friends, family, or a counselor to help manage the emotional burden.
  2. Take Your Time:
    • Don’t rush into decisions. Allow yourself time to process your feelings and make informed choices.

Handling Family Dynamics

Inheriting property can sometimes lead to family disagreements, particularly if multiple beneficiaries are involved.

  1. Open Communication:
    • Maintain clear and open communication with all beneficiaries to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Mediation:
    • If disputes arise, consider mediation to find amicable solutions without resorting to legal battles.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Inheriting a London Property


  • John inherited a 3-bedroom house in London from his aunt. The house was solely owned and valued at £800,000.


  • High inheritance tax due to the property value.
  • Emotional attachment as he spent many summers there.


  1. Probate: John applied for and received probate, which involved paying inheritance tax.
  2. Valuation: He obtained three professional valuations and set a sale price of £850,000.
  3. Preparation: The house was decluttered and minor repairs were done.
  4. Sale: He chose a traditional estate agent for wider market access and sold the property within three months.


  • The property sold for £860,000. After paying capital gains tax on the gain since probate, John used the proceeds to invest in his business.

Case Study 2: Inheriting a Rural Cottage in Wales


  • Sarah inherited a rural cottage in Wales valued at £250,000 from her grandmother.


  • The property needed significant repairs.
  • Low local demand compared to urban areas.


  1. Probate: Sarah obtained probate without paying inheritance tax as the estate was below the threshold.
  2. Valuation: She got valuations and decided to invest in essential repairs before selling.
  3. Preparation: The cottage was cleaned, decluttered, and staged for viewings.
  4. Sale: Sarah chose to sell through an online estate agent to reduce fees.


  • The property sold for £280,000 after repairs. The proceeds were used to pay off her student loans and invest in a new home.

Practical Tips for Selling an Inherited Property

  1. Get Professional Advice:
    • Consult with legal, tax, and real estate professionals to navigate the complexities of selling an inherited property.
  2. Consider the Market:
    • Evaluate the current property market conditions to decide the best time to sell.
  3. Budget for Costs:
    • Be aware of potential costs such as repairs, legal fees, and taxes, and budget accordingly.
  4. Plan for Taxes:
    • Understand your tax obligations and seek advice to optimize your tax situation.
  5. Stay Organized:
    • Keep all documents, communications, and records organized to streamline the process.


Selling a house left to you in a will involves navigating legal procedures, understanding tax implications, and managing practical preparations. By obtaining probate, accurately valuing the property, understanding and planning for tax liabilities, and carefully preparing the property for sale, you can ensure a smoother process and maximize the value of the inherited asset.

Handling the emotional aspects and family dynamics with care and seeking professional advice where necessary can also make the process more manageable. Each situation is unique, and taking a methodical and informed approach will help you make the best decisions for your circumstances.

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