For many executors, the responsibility of selling off a family home and distributing the proceeds to the beneficiaries named in the will turns out to be the biggest and most stressful task undertaken. Estate attorneys offer guidance.
Even in the best of circumstances, real estate transactions have a tendency to be nerve wracking, so it is not surprising that the executors of family estates find property transactions particularly stressful, especially given the likelihood of having to make decisions while grieving. In many families, proceeds from a home sale are the most significant asset going to beneficiaries, which increases the pressure on an executor handling arrangements to sell. Estate law experts encourage executors to seek professional help along the way. In addition to legal guidance, executors are likely to find realtors, estate sale and accounting expertise useful. Attorneys at Cushing & Dolan advise executors to go one step at a time, noting:
Selling the home will likely be one of your biggest priorities. It’s probably the largest single asset in the estate. The longer it remains unsold, the more chance you have of theft or vandalism. You should change the locks and make sure that no one (not even other family) goes in unless you’re there.If there are items in the home that the deceased left to specific beneficiaries, get those out. The easiest way to deal with the furniture, artwork and other items is usually to hire a company to hold an estate sale.
When making decisions about the contents of a home, it’s important for executors to communicate clearly with beneficiaries and other friends and relations. Navigating conflict is also a real possibility, since there may be emotional attachments to some items or misunderstandings about verbal promises made about who gets what. Ultimately, the more efficiently possessions can be attended to, the better, as attorneys point out:
Once everything is out, you and your real estate agent can determine whether to spend time and money on repairing and remodeling to get a better price or sell as-is. In a seller’s market, you may be able to get multiple offers on a home that’s been kept in reasonably good shape without doing anything. Remember that the longer the home stays unsold, the more you’re paying in property taxes, insurance, homeowners’ association dues and possibly mortgage payments.
Because they are fiduciaries, executors are legally obliged to act in compliance with the state probate process. Attorneys at Pullman & Conley remind us that before distributing any assets to beneficiaries, an executor must file a list of all assets with the probate court, ensure all creditors have been paid, file tax returns, and prepare an accounting of assets received and payments made. Given the seriousness of these responsibilities, an executor bond may be required to guarantee duties will be carried out in accordance with the law and in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate. As a leading national provider of many types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain an executor bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even before leaving probate court or the law office.
Good To Know: Estate Expenses?
Executors do not have to personally pay for the expenses that come up in the course of carrying out their duties. For example, experts explain that expenses typically charged to the estate include: transportation to and from the estate, postage for estate documents, notary fees, filing and other administrative fees for probate court and the fees associated with procuring death certificates. Naturally, expenses related to real estate–and the sale of it–put a dent in the assets of the estate too. Because this can be surprising or disappointing for beneficiaries, it’s especially important for executors to keep careful records and communicate continuously about expenses such as:
Closing costs on property sales – This includes things like realtor’s commissions, title company fees, title insurance, etc.
Appraisal fees—…Often, the Executor…needs to determine the fair market value of certain property owned by the decedent as of his or her date of death for tax purposes….
Cleaning and moving – Nearly every estate where real property is being sold requires clean up of the home/land and organization, sales, distribution and/or disposal of the personal items of the deceased loved one.
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