Selling a home or property on behalf of someone who has passed away, also known as an estate sale, is an intricate process. Given the unique logistical, legal, financial, and emotional factors, navigating an estate sale can quickly feel overwhelming.

As a Toronto real estate team with distinctive experience in these types of transactions, we’d like to share with you a brief guide on what you can expect from the probate and estate sales process.

Note, estate sales can be remarkably intricate. While this post is designed to be an introduction to the topic, in-depth advice is available. Click here to reach our team.

Beginning the Estate Sale Process

If you’re currently selling a home on behalf of someone who has passed away, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate. Like a traditional home sale, the best way to undertake an estate sale is to partner with a real estate professional who can guide you through the process from start to finish.

However, it’s important to recognize that estate sales can be fairly involved and intricate. With this in mind, you’ll want to selectively hire an agent who has distinctive experience in these types of transactions.

During what is often a remarkably difficult time for many, the right real estate agent can provide you with a full-service experience that minimizes the stress involved with selling – allowing you to place your energy and time into what matters most.

Alongside the real estate items of an estate sale, an agent can also be an unbiased mediator between family members, loved ones, or anyone else who may play a role in the sale. They’ll ensure everyone feels heard, respected, and informed throughout the sales process.

Understanding Probate

When someone passes away, the belongings and assets they leave behind are referred to formally as the estate. The estate can include larger items such as a home or property, but it can also include smaller belongings.

In Toronto, there are strict legal protections for how an estate can be managed. Even if there are explicit instructions in the individual’s Will on how they want to distribute certain assets (in this case, their home), family members will still be required to follow the necessary regulations.

Under Ontario law, an individual’s estate can only be managed by a designated estate trustee – also called an Executor. The act of becoming a formal executor is known as probate.

Probate Essentials

Here are a few things to know about the process of becoming an Executor.

  • Only one person may legally act as the Executor, and only they can apply for probate
  • If the Will already identifies someone as the Executor, they will still be required to follow the formal application process
  • If the Will does not include an Executor, a family member or loved one may elect to apply
  • If the named Executor does not wish to act as a trustee, another person can apply for probate in their place

It’s important to note that the sale of any estate assets, such as a home, cannot occur until the formal completion of the probate process, i.e. once the Ontario Court has confirmed an Executor.

Probate vs. Power of Attorney

Probate may occasionally be confused with power of attorney (POA). While both of these processes allow someone to make decisions on behalf of someone else, such as a family member, they have distinctly different applications.

In the case of selling a home, probate is required in instances where the homeowner has passed away. If the owner of the home is alive but unable to make sound decisions (often for medical reasons), someone close to them may be granted POA in order to undertake the sale on their behalf.

Selling your parents’ home with them can be equally as complex and emotional as an estate sale. Click here for guiding insights on this topic.

Preparing the Home For Sale

Depending on how hands-on you wish to be, preparing the property for sale can take some time. Therefore, it’s best to begin planning early, maintaining open communication with other family members who may also be involved in the process.

Decluttering & Sorting Items

One of the largest tasks involved in an estate sale is decluttering. This step involves sorting through all of the belongings and assets on the property and determining what you’d like to do with them.

In addition to being labour-intensive, the process of decluttering a home can also be an emotional one. As many belongings carry sentimental value, it can be difficult to decide what is kept, donated, sold, or thrown away.

Depending on the real estate agent you choose to work with, they may be able to guide you through this process. Acting as an unbiased third party, they can provide an air of clarity in helping you sort through the various belongings.

Home Staging

In a competitive housing arena like Toronto, staging allows sellers to elevate their property above others on the market. Once the home is market-ready, your real estate agent may elect to incorporate staging in order to cultivate an atmosphere that maximizes buyer appeal.

Want to know more about how staging can exponentially increase your return? Explore these related topics on our blog.

Financial Factors

As the Executor, you may also be responsible for managing parts of certain aspects of an estate’s financial standing. During the sale process, be in touch with the homeowner’s financial planner, accountant, or bank if possible.

Mortgage Considerations

Among other details, you’ll want to verify if their mortgage has already been paid off or if there is an outstanding balance. You should also ask about other debts that could need to be resolved following the sale of the property. 

Costs During Probate & Selling

Even if the property is vacant, there will be ongoing costs during the selling process to be mindful of. For instance, home utilities and property maintenance costs such as snow removal or lawn care.

Additionally, it’s important to get in touch with the insurance company as soon as possible as they may have particular rules pertaining to vacancies. Some providers may require in-person property checks every few days, while others will mandate a specified vacant home policy.

An Estate Administration Tax also applies to probate in Ontario. This cost can vary based on valuation, however, it is typically around 1.5%.

After the Sale: Taxation

Depending on how the title for a property was held there can be planning done to reduce or eliminate the probate taxes that are payable or help you to reduce taxation following an estate sale, this can be fairly intricate.

For more personalized advice, ask your real estate agent, accountant, or financial planner. We have a full team of trusted partners who can give you advice based on your unique circumstances.

In need of general advice for selling a home in Toronto? Explore these other seller-focused topics from our blog.

Timelines & Planning

Given the sheer volume of logistical variables, the timeline of an estate sale isn’t always entirely up to you. For instance, if the province is handling a great deal of administrative backlog, completing the probate process could take several months, in Toronto it is common for probate to take 4-6 months to be granted. 

With that in mind, it’s important to consider starting the process early to avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed by potential delays or challenges down the line.

Ramsay Real Estate Group’s Approach

Searching for a compassionate and dedicated team that can guide you through selling a loved one’s home? Ramsay Real Estate Group is here for you.

Combining our vast professional experience in estate sales with a passion for property management, we’re able to guide you through the process from start to finish – providing as much (or as little) support as you need.

Our solutions are turn-key. We understand the complex intricacies of estate sales and can take care of the details on your behalf. If you need, we’ll take on the total coordination and management of your sale, giving you the time to focus on other pressing matters. 

Preparing & Selling the Home

Alongside helping you make sense of the estate sales process, it’s our top priority to ensure you achieve a great return on the market. In tandem with our supportive, full-service selling process, our market-leading sales tactics help you maximize your results.

When it comes to preparing and selling the home, we’re able to oversee any and all aspects of the process on your behalf. Need help to declutter the property? We can coordinate the sorting and removal of belongings – ensuring the process is undertaken with care and efficiency. However hands-on you wish to be, we’re happy to help.

Facilitating a Remote Sale

If you’re looking to sell on behalf of an estate but live in a different city or province, we can facilitate the entire process remotely. Leveraging our expertise in project management, we can coordinate the complete preparation, listing, and sale of the property locally – keeping you informed at all times.

A Sale Tailored to You

We understand that selling a loved one’s home can feel overwhelming in more ways than one. That’s why our selling approach is completely tailored to you and your family. Whatever you need, we’re here to provide support, help you navigate the process, and ensure a great result on the market.

In addition to our high-performance selling strategies, our compassionate client-first approach to service ensures you feel informed and reassured throughout the entire process. As experienced mediators, we thrive at helping families communicate during challenging circumstances. We ensure everyone involved feels heard, understood, and in the loop.

Looking to sell a home on behalf of a family member or loved one? Ramsay Real Estate Group can help. Click here to send us an email or reach us by phone at 416.906.8366.

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