The death of a loved one can be overwhelming. When the decedent has his affairs in order, it makes it much easier for the executor of the estate. The executor of a will has a fiduciary duty to carry out the deceased person’s final wishes.
Typically, estate planning requires the appointment of an executor of an estate. People usually choose one of their family members or beneficiaries who will respect the terms of the will.
The named executor must identify all estate property, assets, and bank accounts. But what happens when you are unhappy with how an executor manages a decedent’s estate?
Can the Executor Sell Property to Himself?
Can an executor sell a property to himself? The property does not belong to the executor, so it is not his to sell. When an executor is interested in buying an estate property, he should obtain legal advice from a law firm.
As executor, you want to avoid any hint of impropriety, such as embezzlement. An estate attorney will advise you about state law and probate law.
When the executor is also one of the beneficiaries, they can buy the real property at fair market value. The probate attorney will advise you to have a real estate agent determine the property’s appraised value.
You will need signed consent from the beneficiaries approving the sale. The proceeds from the sale are added to the estate funds, which the executor will divide among the beneficiaries. They may also want to consider selling to cash home buyers in Wisconsin.
When an executor is not a beneficiary but is interested in buying the property, they can discuss their intent with the beneficiaries. The executor can buy the property if the beneficiaries agree to the sale. It is wise to consult a probate lawyer before the sale to ensure everything is done correctly.
An executor cannot buy the property at a discount as compensation for their executor duties. Purchasing the house below fair market value would go against their fiduciary duty to the estate.
They would be taking money from the estate account, which could be considered embezzlement. They must pay the appraised value to the estate account.
The executor should give the beneficiaries the first opportunity to buy the property. They may have a sentimental attachment to the property. The executor will want to avoid problems if the heirs contest the will or the sale.
Can the Executor of a Will Sell the Property Without Permission?
An executor may have to sell a property to pay any of the decedent’s outstanding debts. The will must go through the probate process, and the probate court will grant the executor power of attorney.
Once the executor has court approval, the executor can legally transfer ownership to the beneficiary.
When the executor has a valid reason for selling the property, such as paying off debt, the judge will usually allow it.
Most beneficiaries understand that the executor must pay the debt, so there are usually no issues if everything is clear and transparent. Executors must keep a detailed accounting of all transactions about the estate account.
It is best to notify the beneficiaries of the sale and explain why they must sell it. There might be a beneficiary of the estate who would be interested in buying the property.
The executor must keep a detailed sale accounting and add the proceeds to the estate account. There must be no appearance of self-dealing.
Some beneficiaries do not want the actual property but would rather have the money. They might be worrying about what can go wrong when you inherited a house in WI.
In this case, once the court has approved, the executor can sell the property and add the proceeds to the estate account. They must also consider the tax consequences when selling an inherited house.
Once all the estate administration is complete, the executor will divide the money in the estate account among the named beneficiaries.
It is best to consult with a probate attorney when considering the sale of estate property. The legal fees are a wise investment if it prevents problems with the sale or the beneficiaries. The executor must follow the probate laws and ensure they do everything correctly.
What an Executor of a Will Do and Not Do
The executor’s role is significant. The testator should choose someone that they trust. An executor is responsible for carrying out their final wishes and disbursing their estate to beneficiaries. Agreeing to be an executor is a commitment they must take very seriously.
Here are a few things that an executor will do:
- Identify and inventory all estate assets. The executor must maintain and manage all property and assets until the probate process is finished. This entails paying maintenance fees and keeping property and assets safe and secure.
For example, the executor would have to pay to keep the heat on in a home during the winter even though no one lived there.
- File the will and death certificate with the probate court. The executor must follow this critical legal step even if the will is not going through the probate process.
- Pay all outstanding bills and debts. When insufficient money is in the estate account to cover all debts, the executor may have to sell a property.
- Disburse all property and assets to the beneficiaries.
- Communicate to beneficiaries about the process. The executor does not own any property assets and is responsible for managing them until they can be disbursed. They must inform the beneficiaries of their intentions.
Here are a few things that an executor will not do:
- Sign a will on the decedent’s behalf. The executor has no right to sign a will for the decedent. The decedent must sign and finalize their will before their death.
- Verify that a decedent’s will is completed before their death.
- Stop people from contesting the will. An executor must fulfill the last wishes of the testator. Family members are sometimes unhappy with these wishes and decide to contest the will; the executor can do nothing to prevent this. He cannot change the decedent’s wishes.
- Change the beneficiaries who are named in the will. They cannot add beneficiaries that they feel might be deserving. They must respect the decedent’s final wishes even if they disagree with them.
- Buy estate property at a price below market value. This is improper and appears very dishonest. An executor cannot profit from their executor role.
- Mix their money with the estate money. They cannot use estate money for personal use or add their funds to the estate account. The estate account must contain only the decedent’s money. The executor must keep an accurate and detailed record of all transactions.
How To Handle an Executor That Is Not Doing Their Job Correctly
Beneficiaries may be unhappy with how an executor handles their loved one’s estate.
The probate process takes some time, and the executor should communicate this to the beneficiaries, making the process very transparent. The executor should inform the beneficiaries of everything that they are doing.
The first step is to schedule a meeting with the executor and attempt to resolve the issues directly. It may be a simple misunderstanding of how the probate process works. The resolution of a will and the disbursement can take several months.
When the direct approach doesn’t work, you may have to consult with a lawyer. They will give you advice on the best way to handle the situation. You have some options that do not involve going to court.
They may recommend:
- Contacting the executor’s lawyer
- Write a letter voicing your concerns to the executor or their lawyer.
- Attempt estate mediation
If all else fails, you may consider legal action. You can file a petition to remove the executor or force the executor to give a complete accounting of the estate assets. The legal route can be expensive, so trying all your other options are best.
A beneficiary can petition to have an executor removed if they are incompetent or dishonest, and it will be up to the heir to prove this in court. The heir will have to provide evidence that backs up their claim. It cannot be a matter of not getting along with the executor, and you must have actual proof.
A judge may remove an executor if the latter:
- Cannot complete the tasks that the will specifies.
- Was under undue influence.
- Mismanaged the estate.
- Does not keep accurate records for the estate account.
- Used estate funds for personal use.
- Has been convicted of a crime.
- Refused to comply with the court’s instructions
- Sells property or assets without the court’s permission.
- Has a conflict of interest.
In most cases, executors attempt to honor their responsibilities. Beneficiaries who believe that the executor is acting in bad faith or is not doing what they should be doing should consult an attorney.
An executor has a difficult job. They must finalize a person’s life and follow the probate process to ensure they follow all state laws. Executors are responsible for disbursing all inheritance to the beneficiaries named in the will.
You will want an honest and trustworthy executor because you are trusting them with the assets you have acquired over a lifetime.