Valuing a property for probate

Jul 10, 2023

If you are dealing with an estate administration after someone has died and this includes dealing with their property, you will need to value it. We take a look at how to do this and why it is important to arrive at an accurate figure.

After a death, the first step the executors or administrators need to take is valuing the estate. It is often the case that the most expensive asset is the deceased’s property.

Why does an estate need to be valued?

The estate needs to be valued to establish whether or not Inheritance Tax will be payable. If the net estate is worth more than £325,000, then Inheritance Tax will be payable on the portion of the estate over this level.

There are some exceptions. Firstly, if some or all of the estate is left to a spouse, a civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports clubs, then no Inheritance Tax is payable on that share.

Secondly, if a spouse or civil partner died before the deceased and their estate did not use all of their £325,000 allowance, the remainder can be used by the deceased’s estate.

Finally, there is another Inheritance Tax allowance available if the deceased left a property to their direct descendants, ie. children or grandchildren. This is known as the residence nil-rate band and is £175,000 for each individual. Again, if a pre-deceased spouse or civil partner’s allowance was not used when they died, this can be transferred.

How to value a property for probate

The value of the estate assets, including the property, should be the open market value as at the date of death.

Most estate agents will provide a market appraisal for probate purposes. This is different to a normal estate agent’s valuation made for the purposes of marketing the property. Instead, it will take into account how much similar properties were selling for at the time of death. Agents may make a charge for this type of valuation.

If the property was jointly owned with someone else as tenants in common, the deceased’s share will pass in accordance with the terms of their Will or the Rules of Intestacy. The valuation will usually be discounted to take into account that it would be difficult to sell only a share in a property.

Where a property was jointly owned with someone as joint tenants, then it does not form part of the deceased’s estate. Instead, the other owner will automatically own the whole property. This means that it will not need to be valued or dealt with in the estate administration.

Professional property valuation for probate purposes

If the property is of high value or it is unusual in some way, the estate’s executors or administrators can obtain a formal professional valuation from a chartered surveyor. This will reduce the risk to them of any allegations that the property was not correctly valued.

This type of valuation can be useful in the following circumstances:

  • No similar properties have come onto the market, meaning there is nothing to compare the property to
  • The property includes a large area of land
  • The property is of unusual construction
  • The property is in poor condition
  • The property or land has potential for development

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) members carry out ‘red book’ valuations. These are assessments and reports of the property’s value prepared in line with the RICS guidance, known as the red book. They are considered to be of high standard and can be relied on in court if necessary.

Why an accurate property valuation is important

If executors or administrators undervalue a property, then a lower sum of Inheritance Tax could be paid than is due. This could be of concern to HM Revenue & Customs and if it was found that an error had been made in the valuation, there is a risk that penalties could be imposed on the estate.

Where executors or administrators have made an error which has caused a loss to the estate, they will be personally liable for this, even if it was an honest mistake.

If an error is made because of a lack of reasonable care, HM Revenue & Customs could impose a penalty of up to 30% of the extra Inheritance Tax which is due.

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