Selling real estate is a common part of the probate process in Florida, where many people own vacation homes. You may be reassured to hear that it is generally pretty straightforward to sell real property during probate in Florida.
Sometimes, selling a property during probate is not the family’s first choice, but it must be done to cover the estate’s debts. Whether you’ve decided to sell for this reason or not, if the estate does have any debts, then the proceeds from the sale must first be used to pay them. If any money remains, it gets distributed to heirs.
Selling a property during probate can be a fair deal more complicated than selling other assets like personal items, so it’s always recommended to consult an experienced estate attorney who is well-versed in Florida probate code.
Initiating the process in court
If your loved one left a will containing a “power of sale clause,” then the personal representative can sell property belonging to the estate without attaining an order from the probate court.
However, if you don’t have that, don’t worry. You can still sell property, but you will have to go through the court. Just be aware that this process can take more time and incur more charges when the court has to be involved.
When you want to sell but there is no power of sale clause in your loved one’s will, you will have to prepare a Petition for Order Authorizing the Sale of Real Property for the court, along with some other documents, to get a hearing scheduled. If the court deems your materials sufficient, they will issue an order approving the sale of the property.
Listing a probate property in Florida
Before you get to the point when you petition the sale to the court, you have to find a buyer.
The very first step in selling an estate in Florida is working with a professional appraiser to get the property appraised. If you already have a real estate agent you are working with, they will likely have a referral for a qualified appraiser.
Then, your realtor will list the property on multiple platforms like Zillow and Trulia, making it clear to potential buyers that this is a probate sale.
It usually takes a few months to find a buyer, and you may have to arrange to make some upgrades/repairs to the property.
Alternatively, instead of selling the property through a real estate agent, you could try to sell to an investor. If the property is not in great condition and you want to sell it as-is, then finding an investor might be your best bet if you just want to get cash for the property as soon as possible.
Once you have found a buyer
When a buyer makes an offer, they must put down a 10% binder deposit, which will be placed in escrow.
Once you’ve found a ready and able buyer, then you make your petition to the court. This part usually takes around 3-5 weeks depending on how busy your county court is.
When an offer is accepted, a “Notice of Planned Actions” is mailed to all of the beneficiaries, stating the conditions of the planned sale.
The heirs then have 15 days from receiving the notice to make any objections. If an heir has an objection to propose, then the court will plan a hearing.
Any objection to the sale will greatly delay the entire probate process, so if you anticipate a disagreement in the family regarding the property, it would be best to try and work it out without going to court.
What to know about “overbidding”
Before the sale can be finalized, the court has an “overbidding” process consisting of an in-court auction, which allows anyone present to outbid the original interested buyer.
If the seller accepts a higher bid at this auction, then the original buyer’s 10% deposit is refunded, and the new buyer puts down a deposit. If everyone agrees, the court finalizes the sale.
Selling a house or other real property during probate can be much more involved than dealing with other types of assets. However, in Florida, probate sales are relatively straightforward, in the grand scheme of things that can happen during probate. While it may sound like a lot to handle, especially while you and your family are grieving your loved one, the expertise of an appraiser, real estate agent, and estate attorney will guide you through.
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