How to Buy or Sell Probate Property in California

Introduction – Probate Property

If property is not held in a Living Trust when its owner passes away, probate is often required for that property. While an estate is being reviewed in probate court, property in the estate may be sold in order to cover debts that can’t be paid with existing estate funds. The personal representative (Executor/Administrator) of the estate is tasked with deciding what to do with the property.


Can you sell a house while in probate?

California probate law allows the sale of real estate with court permission as long as the Executor/Administrator obtains the right level of authority at the beginning of the probate process. If Full Authority under the Independent Administration of Estates Act (IAEA), then the Executor/Administrator may be able to sell the property without much court involvement. Otherwise, the process will require additional steps, including court approval.


How long does it take to sell a house through probate?

The timeline of property sales during probate varies from state to state. If your offer is accepted, the closing period for a probate property can still take up to a year while the rest of the estate is being settled. It can be delayed even further if disputes arise in court or if there are outstanding taxes on the property.


Pros of Buying Probate Property

  • Possible lower selling price
  • Can be profitable for investors

One of the main benefits for those looking to buy probate property is that they can find property at a reduced price. This is often because of how long the process usually takes. Buying probate properties can also be profitable for investors that are looking to fix up a property to rent or resell.


Cons of Buying Probate Property

  • Property may not have been maintained well
  • Strict bidding rules
  • Lengthy closing period
  • Someone can object to the sale of the property
  • Potential legal and/or specialized realtor fees

While a probate property can be sold at a reduced price and can be profitable for investors, there are risks associated with purchasing one. Probate properties are generally sold as-is, so if the property hasn’t been well maintained, there may be issues that have to be fixed. Additionally, there is no way to contact the previous owner about any maintenance or repair issues, so you might discover these problems only after you have purchased the property.

Some probate properties are sold through a traditional sale process, while others are subject to auction. In order to bid on a probate property, you must attend a court auction. State law determines the bidding policies; for example, in California, a 10% deposit is often required in order to overbid on a property.

Even if your offer is accepted by the court, you may have to wait to close on the property. Since the probate process often takes about a year to complete, you might have to wait awhile before the court determines if any estate taxes are owed on the property.

The sale of a property you are interested in can be delayed or even canceled if disputes arise. For example, if a Will is being contested by a family member, they can bring the matter to court and claim that they deserve rights to own the property. If they gain rights to the property, the sale cannot continue.


Process of Buying Probate Property in California

  • Find a probate real estate listing
  • Attend a court auction to bid on property
  • Pay a percentage of the bid as a deposit on the property
  • Close the sale after the estate is settled


Consider consulting a realtor or attorney that specializes in probate real estate

If you are thinking about purchasing a probate property, it is best to consult a realtor or an attorney who is knowledgeable about the process and who has experience in these types of sales. They can assist you in understanding the steps needed to bid on a property, negotiating a bid, familiarizing yourself with real estate laws, and more.



After someone passes away, their estate may go through probate. Sometimes, their home or other real estate will be placed for sale to pay off other debts they had. These properties can be sold traditionally or auctioned off through a court process which is open to the public.

While buying a probate property can sound like an easy investment, it is important to understand the risks involved. There may be underlying issues with the property itself, or with expenses associated with the property. If the deceased’s family attempts to gain ownership of the property through the court, you may not be able to purchase the property in the end. The typical length of the probate process might mean that you’ll have to wait to close on the property.

If you choose to consult a realtor or attorney that specializes in probate real estate, you will have to pay additional fees on top of any deposits you place on the property. Most importantly, it is not guaranteed that the sale will go through, even if you put in a lot of time and money into your pursuit. It is best to consider all of these factors before shopping around for a probate property.


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