Can You Sell a House Before Probate In California?

Experiencing the death of a loved one can be devastating.

Next comes the lengthy, challenging process of managing the belongings of the deceased, also referred to as probate.

Occasionally, the inherited property serves as a continual reminder of the loss, so it’s natural to desire to sell the property as soon as possible. You may even ponder if there’s a way to avoid probate entirely.

So, can you sell a house before probate?

To answer that, we put together a guide to demystify the probate process and help you in the process of selling inherited property.

Can You Sell a House Before Probate In California

Probate is a legal process that involves the review, administration, and distribution of a person’s assets after death.

Probate seeks to accomplish the following:

  • Establish a will’s validity.
  • Provide a complete inventory and determine the appraised value of a decedent’s assets.
  • Locate and contact all the other beneficiaries.
  • Determine whether the deceased person has enough assets to cover liabilities.
  • Ensure that all of the deceased person’s debts and taxes are paid off.
  • Ensure that the assets of a deceased person go to its intended beneficiaries or creditors even if a will is absent.
What is the Probate Process in California

On average, the whole process takes six to nine months and probate fees can cost between 3% to 7% of the estate’s value.
All in all, the process consists of four phases:

Pre-Petition Phase

During this stage, your main task is to gather the required paperwork (such as the deceased’s will, death certificate, and probate petition form) to initiate the probate process.

Appointment Phase

Probate starts once the will, death certificate, and probate petition form are submitted to the county court where the deceased lived. Then, the court picks someone, usually a family member listed in the will or a neutral third party, to oversee the estate.

Administration Phase

The executor then sends out a notice to all creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs to notify them that the estate is in probate.

Bank accounts, bonds, stocks, fancy stuff like art, cars, and watches, and real estate all make up the probate estate.

After tallying up everything and settling debts (sometimes by selling the real estate), the probate process moves towards closing.

Administration Phase In California

Closing Phase

The executor will use the remaining funds to settle the court fees, attorney’s fees, and taxes.

In the final stage of probate, it is time to distribute assets (or any residual value left from the property sale) amongst the heirs and beneficiaries.

Closing Phase In California

Probate law can be complicated.
They vary by state. Sometimes, the property may not need probate.
So, it’s smart to talk to a probate lawyer who can explain the probate process. Plus, they can advise if you can sell the house before probate finishes.

Technically speaking, the answer is yes.
You can absolutely look for buyers or enlist real estate agents to sell the inherited property. There’s no legal block preventing you from accepting a cash offer or attempting to sell the house before probate finishes.
But to finalize the deal, you must complete the probate process to sidestep legal issues and confirm ownership of the property you’re selling.

Inheriting property can be a lengthy process, prompting questions about avoiding delays while staying within the law.
Smart planning can help sidestep the complexities of inherited real estate. Here are your choices:

Living Trust

If there are multiple beneficiaries, this is the way to go.

A living trust is a legal arrangement that designates someone as the beneficiary and the property owner as the trustee. For example, you could be the beneficiary while your parents act as the trustees.

Living trusts can either be:

  • Revocable – a trust that can be amended within the trustee’s lifetime
  • Irrevocable – a trust that cannot be changed

When the trustee passes away, the estate’s ownership automatically transfers to the beneficiary. 

But, keep in mind, a living trust only helps avoid probate, not taxes. So, you still need to fulfill all tax responsibilities during an estate sale.

Living Trust In California

Jointly Owned Property with Right of Survivorship

This is also known as joint tenancy. It means that if one of the co-owners dies, the property automatically goes to the other owner, who then has complete legal control over the property.

Jointly Owned Property with Right of Survivorship In California

Tenancy by Entirety or Community Property Law

This option is only available to married couples.
Tenancy by entirety is like joint tenancy, where the surviving spouse gets complete ownership of the property when the other dies, skipping probate.
Not every state recognizes tenancy by entirety, especially in community property states, where they use terms like community or marital property instead.

Death Deed

In some states, you can skip the probate process via a Transfer upon Death deed.
This document transfers ownership of property directly to the inheritor, skipping the troubles and costs of probate. Like a living trust, it doesn’t shield you from taxes and expenses when selling the inherited property.

Independent Administration of the Estate Act (IAEA)

If you’re the personal representative, you can sell a property before probate finishes as long as you follow the law.
Remember, you can’t have a personal stake in the property, so you can’t sell it to yourself. You also need to inform everyone involved in the estate about the sale.

Laws about inherited property differ by state, but submitting a will is always required, regardless of whether the property has to go through the legal process of probate.

Not submitting a will can lead to significant legal issues if beneficiaries or creditors are left out and choose to take legal action.

If a person dies without as will, or a will is declared to be legally invalid, the person is said to have died intestate.
When this happens, probate is required and the responsibility of administering and distributing probate property falls to the probate court

In certain areas like California, it’s mandatory for the executor to submit the will within 30 days of someone passing away to start the probate process. But generally, there is no time limit in initiating the proceedings. However, waiting to file doesn’t offer any advantages, so it’s smart to submit the probate petition promptly.

Sure. Sometimes, probate can happen without much court involvement, known as informal probate.

Sure. Sometimes, probate can happen without much court involvement, known as informal probate.

In some places, informal probate is handled by the probate registrar, without direct court oversight.

This happens when everyone involved in the estate agrees, and there are no legal or administrative issues.

The executor, or the person in charge legally, must handle the probate property properly.

Sometimes, if the person who passed away didn’t leave enough money to pay debts, the person in charge, called the executor, has to sell the property before finishing the legal process called probate. Then, they use the money from selling the property to pay off the debts. If there’s still not enough money, the executor talks with the people owed money, which is called abatement. After all the debts are paid off, whatever money is left (if there is any) is given to the people who inherit, called beneficiaries.

Not all assets have to go through probate upon a person’s passing. These assets include:

  • Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Property held in a living trust
  • Property held in joint tenancy, tenancy by entirety, or those considered community property
  • Wages or commissions due to the decedent
  • Funds, stocks, or bonds registered with a Transfer-on-Death form

If the property is modest, heirs may avoid probate altogether

In certain states, you could submit a sworn statement to obtain a property with a market value below a specific limit.

The limit varies by state; some only offer this option for non-real estate assets. It’s wise to seek advice from a probate attorney on this.

Unless your mother’s house is held in a living trust, named for you in a death deed, or includes you as a joint tenant, you need to complete the probate process before you will be able to sell.

In its core, probate is about protecting the assets of someone who has passed away and ensuring they go to the rightful inheritors.

The question “Can you sell a house before probate?” has a straightforward answer: yes, if probate isn’t necessary.

Whether you want to sell a house before or after probate, most homeowners aim for a quick sale.

At JiT Home Buyers, we assist you in achieving just that!

We eliminate the hassle of working with real estate agents and their fees, connecting you directly with local cash buyers who know your area well. This ensures you receive the most precise offer! Moreover, we can close the deal in as little as seven days—and we cover all closing expenses for you!

To receive a fair cash offer for your property, fill out the online form below to begin.

For a fast, no-obligation consultation, feel free to call us at (510) 473-5885, and we’ll gladly assist you!

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We Buy Houses AS-IS In California

We are a local real estate investment company in California that buys houses in any condition. We also buy mobile homes and condos in any condition. You can sell your house fast for cash regardless of the condition.

Our service area includes homes in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and throughout California. Our goal is to serve homeowners with a simple solution when selling there house fast.

You can start the process to sell your house fast by calling us or filling in the online form. We will respond back to you the same day and present you with a fair cash offer for your house. If you accept our cash offer for your home, you can schedule a closing date and get cash for your house.

The Easiest Way To Sell Your House Fast In California

You’re in the driver’s seat when you accept our cash offer for your house. We make the process simple, fast, and easy to follow when working with us. You have no obligation to accept our cash offer for your home when contacting us for a fair cash offer for your home. No matter the reason you want to sell your house, we want to buy your home as is. Remember that you get many benefits that include no real estate agent commissions, no cleaning, no improvements, and no stress. Our cash offer for your as-is house assures you of fast cash payment at closing with a reputable Title company. You can count on our company to give you a fair cash offer for your home! If you’re still thinking, “I need to sell my house fast”, calling us could be your best decision all day. 🙂

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Author: Saini

My name is Saini, and I founded the JiT Home Buyers team with years of experience in the real estate industry. I have assisted numerous sellers in selling their homes quickly, “AS-IS”, and for a fair price.

He’s been featured in multiple publications including Yahoo Finance, GoBankingRates, LegalZoom, The Mortgage Report, Apartment Therapy, US News and World Report, and SuperMoney among others.

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