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Can Wife Sell Deceased Husband’s Property?

Property Saviour » Inherited Property » Can Wife Sell Deceased Husband’s Property?

Losing a spouse is an emotionally devastating experience, and dealing with the legal and financial complexities that follow can be overwhelming. One of the most pressing concerns is often what happens to the shared property, especially if it was solely in the deceased husband’s name.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on the rights and options available to a wife in such a situation.

Table of Contents

Can Wife Sell Deceased Husband's Property?

A wife’s ability to sell a deceased husband’s property depends on how the property was owned and whether the husband had a will. If the property was owned jointly by the husband and wife, such as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, the wife automatically becomes the full owner upon the husband’s death and can sell the property.

However, if the property was owned solely by the husband or as tenants in common, the wife does not automatically inherit the property. In that case, she would need to follow the instructions in the husband’s will regarding the inheritance of the property.

If he did not have a will, the wife may still inherit all or part of the property based on state intestacy laws, but may need to go through probate before being able to sell. Consulting an estate attorney is advisable to understand one’s rights regarding selling an inherited spousal property.

What Happens if Husband Dies and House is Only in His Name?

If your husband passes away and the house is solely in his name, the property will typically become part of his estate. As the surviving spouse, you may have certain rights to inherit the property, depending on whether your husband had a valid will in place.

  1. If your husband had a will:
    • If the will explicitly leaves the property to you, you will inherit it.
    • If the will does not mention the property or leaves it to someone else, you may still have a legal right to a portion of the estate, known as the “spouse’s statutory legacy.”
  2. If your husband did not have a will (intestate):
    • In England and Wales, you are entitled to inherit the first £270,000 of the estate plus half of the remaining estate if there are surviving children or grandchildren.
    • If there are no surviving children or grandchildren, you will inherit the entire estate.

 

It’s important to note that you cannot sell the property until you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, which gives you the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s estate.

can wife sell deceased husband's property
Do not transfer or sell any assets without proper authority: Until you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

What Not to Do After the Death of a Spouse?

While dealing with the loss of a loved one, it’s essential to avoid making hasty decisions that could have legal or financial consequences. Here are some things you should not do after the death of your spouse:

  1. Do not transfer or sell any assets without proper authority: Until you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, you do not have the legal right to transfer or sell any assets, including the property.
  2. Do not ignore potential tax implications: Depending on the value of the estate and the property, you may be liable for Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, or Stamp Duty Land Tax. It’s crucial to seek professional advice to understand your tax obligations.
  3. Do not make significant financial decisions without consulting experts: Consult with a solicitor, accountant, or financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, such as selling the property or investing the proceeds.

How Soon After Someone Dies Can You Sell Their House?

While you can put the property on the market immediately after your husband’s death, you cannot complete the sale until you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. The probate process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the estate and the workload of the Probate Registry.

It’s advisable to wait at least eight weeks after the death before starting the marketing process, as this allows time for the initial administrative tasks to be completed and for the probate application to be submitted.

Does Wife Automatically Inherit Husband's Estate?

No, a wife does not automatically inherit her husband’s entire estate. The distribution of the estate depends on whether the husband had a valid will and the specific provisions outlined in it.

  1. If the husband had a will:
    • The estate will be distributed according to the instructions in the will.
    • If the wife is not adequately provided for in the will, she may be able to make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  2. If the husband did not have a will (intestate):
    • The wife will inherit a portion of the estate based on the intestacy rules, as mentioned earlier.
    • The remaining estate will be distributed among other eligible beneficiaries, such as children or other relatives.

It’s important to note that if the husband had any outstanding debts or liabilities, these must be settled from the estate before the remaining assets can be distributed.

What Am I Entitled to When My Husband Dies?

As a surviving spouse, you are entitled to certain rights and benefits when your husband dies, including:

  1. Inheritance rights: As mentioned earlier, you may be entitled to inherit a portion of your husband’s estate, either through his will or the rules of intestacy.
  2. Spouse’s statutory legacy: If your husband’s will does not adequately provide for you, you may be entitled to a spouse’s statutory legacy, which is a fixed sum of money from the estate.
  3. Widow’s pension: If your husband was receiving a state pension or a private pension, you may be eligible for a widow’s pension or a portion of his pension benefits.
  4. Bereavement benefits: You may be entitled to certain bereavement benefits from the government, such as a Bereavement Support Payment or a Widowed Parent’s Allowance, depending on your circumstances.
  5. Life insurance proceeds: If your husband had a life insurance policy, you may be the designated beneficiary and entitled to receive the proceeds from the policy.
does wife automatically inherit husband's estate
If your husband was receiving a state pension or a private pension, you may be eligible for a widow's pension or a portion of his pension benefits.

Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and Stamp Duty Land Tax

When inheriting or selling a property after the death of a spouse, it’s crucial to understand the potential tax implications:

  1. Inheritance Tax:
    • Inheritance Tax is a tax levied on the value of the deceased’s estate, including the property.
    • As a surviving spouse, you are exempt from Inheritance Tax on any assets you inherit from your husband, regardless of their value.
    • However, if the value of the estate exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold (currently £325,000 for the 2023/24 tax year), the excess may be subject to Inheritance Tax at a rate of 40%.
  2. Capital Gains Tax:
    • Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax on the profit made from the sale of an asset, such as a property.
    • As a surviving spouse, you are exempt from CGT on any assets you inherit from your husband, including the property.
    • However, if you sell the property later, you may be liable for CGT on any increase in value since your husband’s death.
  3. Stamp Duty Land Tax:
    • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax payable when purchasing a property in England or Northern Ireland.
    • As a surviving spouse, you are exempt from SDLT if you inherit the property from your husband and continue to use it as your main residence.
    • If you sell the inherited property and purchase a new one, you may be liable for SDLT on the new property, subject to the applicable rates and thresholds.

Weighing Your Selling Options

When you inherit property, you have various options for selling it, each offering different advantages and disadvantages.

Depending on your particular situation, you can choose to sell through an estate agent, an auctioneer, or a property-buying company such as Property Saviour.

 

OptionProsCons
Estate Agent

– Specialised in marketing and selling properties
– Connected to a broad network of potential buyers
– Manages negotiations and documentation
– Offers advice on pricing and property staging

– Commission fees usually range from 1% to 3% of the sale price.
– The sales process tends to be lengthy.
– There’s no guaranteed date by which the sale will complete.
– The property needs to be in a presentable state.

Auctioneer
 
 
 
– A quick sale is possible.
– Competitive bidding may increase the price.
– The process is transparent.
– There are no estate agent fees.

– The property might sell for below the market value.
– There are auction fees and marketing expenses.
– There are strict timelines and deadlines.
– There is no guarantee that the property will sell.

Property Saviour

– Fast and easy selling process
– No requirement for repairs or renovations
– Timelines that adapt to your schedule
– No fees or commissions from real estate agents
– Guaranteed sale without any sudden changes in price

– The offer will be below market value because we aim to profit.
– There is limited room for negotiation.
– There might be an emotional attachment to the property.

Sell with certainty & speed

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