Probate Real Estate - Frequently Asked Questions
We help estates (Executors, Administrators, and Attorneys) with their Probate real estate sales which includes everything from pre-listing preparation through the close of escrow. As Certified Probate Real Estate Specialists, and as an Attorney, we know that selling Probate real estate in Los Angeles after the passing of a loved one can be an overwhelming task. That's why, if you’re looking for someone to represent you in your Probate real estate sale or purchase, it’s important to work with Certified Probate Real Estate Agents who understand the issues involved. Otherwise, you may end up wasting a lot of time and money. So, if you have Probate real estate in Los Angeles County that you’re interested in SELLING or BUYING please let us know and we would be happy to help!
What is Probate Real Estate?
When someone passes away and owns property at the time of death, the PROBATE CODE establishes certain rules and procedures for the disposition and distribution of Probate real estate. See PETITION FOR PROBATE. In other words, “Probate” is a legal process by which assets of a deceased person (also referred to as the “Decedent”) are collected, valued and distributed to others in accordance with a Will or, when there is no Will, the method set out by statute. Think of Probate real estate as a “title clearing process.” It provides for judicial supervision by the PROBATE COURT (which also handles Trust, Guardianship, and Conservatorship proceedings) to make sure the Decedent’s property is properly accounted for and distributed as intended after all debts and expenses have been paid. Generally, real estate held in Joint Tenancy, Community Property with Right of Survivorship, or a Living Trust, does not go through Probate.
What is the Role of a Personal Representative?
A Personal Representative (“PR”) is an Executor or Administrator appointed by the Court to administer a Decedent’s estate which can include selling Probate real estate. The Executor is the person named in a Will to carry out the directions as set forth in the Will. The Administrator is the person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died without a Will. Early in the proceedings, the Court generally issues a document called LETTERS TESTAMENTARY (appointing an Executor) or LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION (appointing an Administrator) which identifies and gives the PR the authority needed to perform their fiduciary duties which can include selling a Probate house or land. The PR - who quite often hires an estate Attorney and a Probate Real Estate Agent if necessary - has many responsibilities, including gathering Decedent’s assets and paying their debts so that the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate receive the largest inheritance possible.
When does the Independent Administration of Estates Act (“IAEA”) Apply?
THE INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES ACT ("IAEA") is a series of laws which may allow the PR to administer most aspects of a Decedent’s estate without Court supervision, including Probate real estate listings. The authority to administer the estate under the IAEA can be given by the Decedent’s Will or by the Court upon petition by the PR which will be reflected in the “Letters” described above. It is generally done when Probate is initiated but can be done at any time during the proceedings. An estate cannot be administered under the IAEA if it is prohibited in the Decedent’s Will or if an interested party provides Court-approved good cause why it should not be administered under the IAEA. Also, an objecting interested person with good cause may convince the Court to grant restrictions to the powers of the PR under the IAEA which can include Probate real estate listings. If the restriction is granted, the “authority” of the Personal Representative becomes “Limited” rather than “Full” (see below).
What is the Difference Between “Limited Authority” and “Full Authority”?
Under the IAEA, a PR’s authority may be either “Limited” or “Full.” If the Court only grants “Limited Authority,” the PR generally has the power to do all acts allowed under the rules except the power to sell real property, exchange real property, grant an option to purchase real property, or borrow money with a loan secured by an encumbrance on real property. For each of these, Court supervision is required. On the other hand, “Full Authority” under the IAEA generally allows the PR to do each of the foregoing at their discretion unless the PR or estate’s Attorney is the principal involved in the transaction or if objections are made to the Notice of Proposed Action (see below).
How Does Probate Real Estate Work?
A PR may sell Probate real estate in Los Angeles under a variety of circumstances which may require Court confirmation. For example, it could be necessary to sell a Probate home or other Probate property in order to pay debts, persons named in the Will, a family allowance, expenses of estate administration, or taxes. A sale of the Decedent’s Probate real estate, which may include a home or land, could also be to the advantage of the estate or might need to be sold to satisfy the terms of the Will.
If the PR has Full Authority under the IAEA, the PR may choose to hire a Probate Real Estate Agent to list the Probate property, such as a home or land, for sale. In addition, if the Executor/Administrator of the estate has been granted Full Authority under the IAEA, the Probate real estate listing may not require Court confirmation. Once a Probate real estate offer is accepted, the estate’s Attorney mails out a Notice of Proposed Action (see below) stating the terms of the proposed Probate real estate sale to all interested parties. These parties then have 15 days to object to the proposed Probate real estate sale. If there is no objection within 15 days, the Probate real estate sale will likely go through without any Court hearing required.
What is a Notice of Proposed Action?
When selling Probate real estate without the need for Court supervision, the PR is generally required to give a “Notice of Proposed Action” to those persons or entities with an interest that may be affected by the Probate real estate sale. The interested parties may include: (a) each person named in the Will; (b) each known heir entitled by law to property of a Decedent dying without a Will; (c) other interested persons requesting notice, such as creditors or beneficiaries of a Trust; and (d) the Attorney General, if any portion of the Probate real estate sale is to go to the State. The format and information to be included, as well as the method of delivery of the notice, is described in the California Probate Code. Thereafter, anyone entitled to receive notice can submit objections as outlined under the applicable rules.
What is the Notice of Sale Requirement Prior to Selling Probate Real Estate?
Except for Probate real estate sales that are exempt from this requirement (such as sales by a PR with Full Authority under the IAEA), a “Notice of Sale” must be published prior to the sale of Decedent’s Probate real estate. The purpose of the Notice of Sale is to provide the public with required information concerning the Probate real estate sale and will typically be handled by the Attorney for the estate. The contents of the Notice of Sale, method of publication required, number of times that the Notice of Sale must be published, and the period of time within which the publication must occur, can all be found in the Probate Code.
Are there Price and Other Restrictions on Selling Probate Real Estate?
When the sale of Probate real estate in Los Angeles is subject to Court confirmation, it must be sold for at least 90% of its appraised value set within one year prior to the sale. In addition, all terms of the Probate real estate sale, including the minimum required deposit, are generally subject to Court approval. Furthermore, offers with contingencies of any sort, such as financing, sale of home, etc., are rare and usually not approved by the Court unless it can be shown that the Probate real estate listing cannot be sold without the contingency. A PR may also consider accepting a Probate real estate offer with contingencies provided that the prospective purchaser removes the contingencies before the offer is submitted to the Court for final confirmation. In contrast, the sale of Probate real estate by a PR with Full Authority under the IAEA does not have the same restrictions and may contain all of the same contingencies and provisions as non-Probate real estate listings.
Are Certain Disclosures Required in the Sale of Probate Real Estate?
Probate real estate is generally not subject to the same disclosure requirements that apply to non-Probate real estate sales in Los Angeles County. Of course, there are certain disclosure requirements that must be made as in any non-Probate sale of real estate. For example, certain agency disclosure requirements must be satisfied and sellers are not relieved from disclosing any known material facts regarding the value or desirability of the property.
How do you Submit an Offer in Probate Real Estate?
Offers may be submitted at any time before a Probate real estate sale closes and should be made in writing. Among other things, the contract should indicate that: (a) the title to be conveyed is whatever the estate holds; (b) whether or not the sale is subject to Court confirmation; and (c) the Probate real estate property is sold “as is” to the extent applicable. The Probate real estate offer should be submitted to the PR by the listing agent and/or anyone else listed in the Notice of Sale who is an appropriate recipient, such as the estate Attorney. While the PR has the power to accept a Probate real estate offer, acceptance may be subject to Court confirmation unless the sale is made under the IAEA by a PR having Full Authority to administer the Probate real estate sale.
Is Court Confirmation of a Probate Real Estate Sale Always Required?
The short answer to this question is no. When applicable, the Probate Code may require that the PR report the Probate real estate sale and petition the Court for confirmation of the sale within 30 days of accepting a Probate real estate offer. In the event that the PR fails to perform these acts within the allotted time period, the purchaser of the Probate real estate at issue may do so on his or her own behalf. In any event, all Probate real estate sales must be confirmed by the Court except for sales of Probate real estate by a PR with Full Authority under the IAEA. At the confirmation hearing, different outcomes are possible. For example, if there is only an original bid, it may be accepted by the Court if it satisfies the statutory requirements. However, it is also possible that the original Probate real estate offer may be subject to being “overbid” by another purchaser or even multiple purchasers (see below). Under those circumstances, the Court will either confirm the Probate real estate sale to the original bidder or to an overbidder and normally approve payment of the brokerage commissions. Moreover, title will pass to the successful buyer only after the terms of the Probate real estate sale have been met, the Court has confirmed the sale, and the PR has executed a conveyance to that buyer.
What is the Overbid Process for Probate Real Estate?
Unless a Probate real estate sale is under Full Authority pursuant to the IAEA, another purchaser may appear at the confirmation hearing and submit a higher written offer to the Court which is referred to as an “overbid.” As set forth in the Probate Code, the overbid must exceed the original bid subject to the following formula: (a) the amount of the original bid, plus; (b) at least 10% of the first $10,000 of the original bid; plus (c) at least 5% of the amount of the original bid in excess of $10,000. So, if the original bid returned to the Court for confirmation is $500,000, then the initial minimum overbid must be for at least $525,500 (10% of the first $10,000 = $1,000; plus 5% of the remaining balance of that bid of $490,000 = $24,500; so $500,000 + $1,000 + $24,500 = $525,500). The minimum amount of increase required after the first overbid will then be set by the Court at the time of the confirmation hearing and the Court will accept bids much in the same manner as an auction until the highest bid available has been made at the hearing. In addition, the “winning” overbid party must appear at the hearing with cash or a cashier’s check (no personal checks) in an amount totaling at least 10% of the minimum overbid price in order to successfully overbid. In the example stated above, that would be $52,550.
As you can see, the process of selling Probate real estate in Los Angles County can be very complicated. So, if you're looking for Certified Probate Real Estate Agents to help you with your your transaction, please don't hesitate to contact us. We've worked with numerous Clients as their Probate Real Estate Agents in Los Angeles, and throughout Los Angeles County, and would be happy to help you with your Probate real estate listing or purchase as well!
For additional information concerning Probate, Trusts and Conservatorships, you can also visit the CALIFORNIA COURTS JUDICIAL BRANCH website, the LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT PROBATE website, the CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION website (for the Probate Code) and our GLOSSARY.*
*Please note that the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice concerning any and all aspects of Probate, the IAEA, Trusts or Conservatorships, you should contact your attorney.