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How to Sell a House in an Estate Frequently Asked Questions

When someone passes away the property he (or she) owned at the time of his death is called his estate. An estate can include a wide range of property such as personal property, vehicles, and financial products. Many estates also include real estate such as the house in which the decedent lived at the time of his death. All property in the estate must be disposed of. The process of winding up a decedent's affairs and disposing of his property occurs during a legal process that is called probate. Probate is initiated in the New York's Surrogate court by the executor and is overseen by a Surrogate Court judge. Because of the notice requirements and the steps necessary to complete probate, probate will take at least 7 months in New York and often takes quite a bit longer, particularly when probate involves disputes and estate litigation over property such as how to sell a house in a estate. If you are trying to figure out how to sell a house in an estate in the most efficient manner, contact an experienced New York probate administration lawyer to discuss your concerns related to how to sell a house in an estate.

Is an executor allowed to sell a house?

In New York, under the Estates Powers and Trusts Law, executors have broad power to manage an estate and do what is necessary to wind up the estate and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. This may include selling assets such as a house. However, an executor must carefully consider a decision to sell a house in an estate. He must make sure that doing so is not prohibited by the will, and that doing so it is in the best interests of the estate. An example of when selling a house is in an estate would be permissible is where the will explicitly directs the executor to do so.

What are reasons that an executor would sell a house?

While every estate is different and there may be unique reasons that an executor may feel that is necessary to sell a house in an estate, there three general reasons that a executor may conclude that it is in the best interest of the estate to sell a house.

Pay debt. The estate may not have enough cash to pay debts. When this happens, the executor may look to sell assets to raise cash. While real estate is typically not the first asset to be sold, the executor may end of having to sell it. Especially in New York where property values are among the highest in the United States, selling a house may bring in a significant amount of cash to pay estate debt that is particularly high.

Will directs a sale. If the decedent included in her will that the house is to be sold, then the executor must do so. Commonly this happens when a decedent wants to give multiple beneficiaries that house, but does not want to encumber them with having to figure out how they are going to management co-ownership.

Beneficiaries want to sell. As a New York probate administration lawyer will explain, the executor may choose to sell a house if the beneficiary who is to receive it does not want the house. In this case the executor may only do so with the permission of the beneficiaries. This typically occurs when a house is left to multiple individuals who are no interested in co-owning a house. When working with estates as probate administration attorneys in New York, we have been asked many times to help clients sell houses in estates because of the high value of the house.

Does the executor need to get permission from the court to sell a probate house?

Under the Estates Powers and Trusts Law the executor has the power to sell estate property as long as the terms are in the best interest of the estate, unless the will prohibits it or unless there is a court order prohibiting it. Thus, under normal circumstances it is not necessary for the executor to first get court approval.

The executor is required to keep detailed records of everything he does in managing an estate. This includes details about money and property leaving the estate and money and property coming into the estate. Because the court must approve the accounting and interested parties have the right to object to it, it may be a good idea for the executor to consider discussion with an experienced New York probate administration attorney the sale of a house and perhaps getting prior court approval if the sale is in any way other than routine.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The special considerations related to how to sell a house in an estate may depend on several factors. Before attempting to sell property in an estate, the executor should discuss the matter with an experienced probate administration attorney serving New York. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience working closely with beneficiaries, heirs, and executors on matters related to probate. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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