One common reason that clients contact me is because their parents have passed away and left behind real estate that needs to be sold. In the best-case scenario, they are referred by a real estate agent before listing the property. But in other cases, they have already found a buyer and are looking to sell as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the process of selling a decedent’s property, while relatively streamlined in Texas, can still take longer than some buyers are willing to wait. So what steps should you take when liquidating an estate?
Consult an attorney
Prior to taking any steps to sell the property, you’ll want to get legal advice from an experienced probate attorney. One of the first questions the attorney should ask you is whether your parent left a will. Ideally, the will names an executor who is willing and able to take on the responsibility of administering your parent’s estate. It is also ideal for the will to authorize independent administration and give the executor the power to sell property without asking the court for permission.
If there was no will, Texas law offers a number of alternatives that vary in cost and speed. Some options, like an affidavit of heirship, are very affordable and speedy in the sense that they quickly create a record of the decedent’s heirs. But an affidavit of heirship generally must be recorded for five years before it is considered presumptive evidence of title.
Get court permission
For families who want or need to sell property more quickly, the preferred method for most transactions is for an heir to file an application to be appointed administrator of the intestate estate. After qualifying as the administrator and filing with the court a sworn inventory listing all known assets in the estate, the administrator can file an application to sell the property. Many realtors are unfamiliar with this process and may tell you that it will make buyers nervous about your property, but that is rarely the case. Having an experienced attorney on board to explain the process will keep the process moving smoothly and eliminates confusion.
Most probate courts will require a hearing on the application for sale before the judge will approve it. After the order approving the sale is signed, the administrator can list the property for sale. Buyers who express an interest in the property should be informed that the property is subject to an administration and that a court will have to approve the sale prior to closing. The administrator should also make sure that any contract she enters clearly discloses the need for the court to approve the sale. Here again, an experienced attorney can help communicate with all parties involved to explain the process and alleviate any fears that may otherwise cause a buyer to move on to another property.
If the administrator has been appointed and qualified, and the application for sale approved before a buyer is located, there should be no noticeable delay in closing the sale. When an administrator wants to begin tentatively marketing the property immediately after being appointed, your attorney should review any contracts you enter to ensure you are not responsible for any delays or rejected applications for sale. Potential buyers also need to be informed that the timeline for closing may be a few days longer than expected.
Sell the house
Once a buyer has been located and the specific terms of the sale are hammered out, the administrator files a report of sale with the court. This report provides the court with the specific terms of the sale, the identity of the buyer, and other information. On the fifth day after the report of sale is filed, if there are no discrepancies between the application for sale and the report of sale, the court will sign a decree confirming the sale. Copies of these documents and anything else the title company requires are then forwarded to the closing agent so that the deed can be drafted, and the sale closes in the same way as any other real estate closing.
Because this process can take a few months from start to finish, it is best to consult an experienced attorney before you begin. In current markets, the process of obtaining court permission rarely costs the estate a buyer, but managing everyone’s expectations from the beginning will help reduce stress for everyone involved and minimize the chances of a lost sale.
At Thompson Salinas Rickers & McDermott, our attorneys have experience in working with realtors and administering estates to get property sold as quickly as possible, for the best possible price. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you quickly and affordably.