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Selling a Home Through an Estate Sale in Massachusetts

Selling a Home Through an Estate Sale in Massachusetts

Most Estate home sales occur after the parents pass away and their children are left to sell all assets, such as the family home.  When this happens siblings usually come together to clean out the house, prepare it for sale, and hire a Realtor to get the home sold. This is obviously a very emotional time for the family, not only from losing a parent but from selling the family home where they’ve grown up.  As with any home sale it is very important to hire the right Realtor who will market the home correctly, price it right, and get it sold. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selling a home through an estate sale.

Probate in Massachusetts

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes the validation of the will, determining who will be the executor (now called a personal representative), how the estate will be sold and how the assets will be distributed.

Some properties do not have to go through probate, such as those owned jointly. Assets arranged to be transferred directly to a beneficiary or held in trust can also avoid probate.

Recent changes have been made to Massachusetts Probate Law. These new laws, known as Uniform Probate Code, or UPC, are meant to save time and money for families who have to go through the probate process. For instance, in the past it could take up to 45 days for a personal representative to be appointed. As of April of 2012 under the new laws a personal representative may be appointed in as little as seven days. Families may now opt for an informal process, which requires less paperwork and court involvement than the formal process.  But the Informal process cannot be used to sell real estate.   The sale of real estate must go through the formal process.

If there is a will, and the will contains the power to sell real estate, then the person named as the personal representative will file papers with the probate court which begins the process to establish authority to distribute the assets. If there isn’t a will, the court will appoint a personal representative to handle the estate.

License to Sell

If there is no will or the will has no power to sell, then the personal representative needs to ask the  court to issue a license to sell real estate. This means that the court gives you permission to sell the property.  The reason approval is needed from probate court is to make sure that there are no debts or claims to the estate. Once you have obtained the license you can sell the house by recording all of the standard Estate documents such as the original Death Certificate and either a Tax Affidavit attesting to the fact that no Estate taxes are due, or a M-792 form (Certificate Releasing Massachusetts Estate Tax Lien) and equivalent IRS form indicating that the Estates taxes were paid.

To obtain the license you must submit the signed purchase and sale agreement to the court together with an accounting of all of the assets of the Estate and the approval of the heirs. The petition for a license must contain the terms of the sale, the sale price, and a description of the real estate.  Hiring an Attorney who specializes in Estate work is essential to properly probating an Estate and obtaining a license to sell.  Remember the personal representative is required to get the best possible price for the property and you are required to pay off all of the liens and attachments.   So be sure to hire a Real Estate Agent who is experienced with selling property.


If a person dies without a will, also known as “dying intestate,” the assets go to “heirs at law” and not the Government as many people wrongly believe.  Who the heirs are depends on who survives after the death, and their relation to the person who died.

As we mentioned, emotions tend to be high during these sales due to siblings losing a loved one and letting go of what was often the family home.  But it is very important that everyone work together to get the home sold for top dollar.  If emotions are not kept in check siblings can end up at odds for no good reason.

Who to Hire for Help

The best thing the family can do is hire a good estate attorney if their parents did not already have one, then hire the right Real Estate Agent, and lastly hire the right Real Estate attorney.  Those three things are key to making it a successful sale.


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