Can a house be cleared without a grant of representation?

Family members or others may be faced with the task of organising the clearance of the deceased’s house. If the deceased left a will, the executors named in the will have the authority to deal with the deceased’s estate before obtaining a grant of representation.

Although a grant may be required to collect money from bank accounts, sell the house, and so on, the executors should be able to arrange the valuation and clearance of the deceased’s personal belongings as soon after death as they wish.

If there is no will, the personal representatives do not – strictly speaking – have authority to clear the house before the grant of representation has been obtained.

However, in view of the fact that a grant may not be required at all, many personal representatives take a practical stance, and proceed with clearing the house without a grant.

If in doubt, wait until the grant of representation has been received.

Beneficiaries

In any event, we recommend that the personal representatives obtain the prior consent of all the main beneficiaries of the estate (the “residuary beneficiaries” if there is a will).

Clearing the deceased’s house can be a difficult and emotive process, and every effort should be made to ensure that the beneficiaries – and close family members, if different – are agreed as to how to proceed.

Valuation of belongings

When clearing the house, the deceased’s personal belongings should be valued. If no single item is thought to be worth over £500, a single estimated figure for everything will suffice. For large estates, formal valuations of some items may be required. See our guide “Valuing household belongings for probate”.

House-clearance services

A search on the Internet or in local directories will reveal a number of house contents clearance services. Typically, such services can also provide a valuation of the belongings. They will deduct fees from the value of items sold at auction (assuming the items are sold for more than the firm’s fees).

Many people wish to take an active role in the house clearance, perhaps without the aid of an independent service. This is perfectly acceptable. You may find it is a long process, and some sort of system may help. For example, first placing coloured stickers on items to distinguish between those to be sold, kept and thrown away.

Gifts in a will

If the deceased left a will, he or she may have left gifts of specific items, such as furniture or jewellery. Be careful to set these items aside. Alternatively, the will may contain provision for certain relatives and/or friends to take an item of their choosing.

For these reasons, check the will before proceeding with any house clearance.

Find out more on this subject at Probate Wizard


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