Death following exchange of contracts

 

Buying or selling a new home can be fraught with complications and stress at the best of times.  Having an offer accepted is only the first stage in what is often a lengthy legal conveyancing process.

But what happens if the death of either party occurs after contracts have been exchanged but before completion has taken place?

If it is the seller who dies unexpectedly before completion, it may be that the transaction can still go ahead, with the buyer asking the deceased’s personal representatives to sign the transfer deed.

It’s not all good news, however.  A transfer cannot be registered without proof of the grant of probate.  In turn, the grant will not be issued until probate has been processed – a procedure which can take up to several months.

For buyers who incur substantial costs as a result of having completion delayed, a claim can be made for compensation.

Unfortunately, in cases where the buyer dies before completion, the conveyancing process cannot continue.  The buyer’s representatives will not be able to carry it through to the final stage and neither they, nor the deceased, can be registered as proprietor of the property, which is required in order to complete.

In such instances, the contract is considered to be “frustrated” (or unable to remain legally binding), due to the death of the buyer.

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