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What to Do If Your Loved One’s Estate Owns Real Property

** This article has been revised from its original version which was published on March 26, 2015.

Selling a piece of real estate can be an extremely stressful, expensive, and time-consuming process. Unless you are a professional house flipper, chances are you rarely buy and sell real estate unless it’s necessary.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one, then this stressful task can easily turn into an overwhelming nightmare. This is why the sale of real property and the distribution of the proceeds are usually the last major events to occur in estate administration in New York.

Trust and Estate Administration of Real Property

When an estate owns real property, there are many things for the fiduciary (New York executor or trust administrator) to consider, but the first and foremost is to protect the asset. This means that the fiduciary should continue to pay the essential utility bills, like heat, electricity, and water, and make certain the home is adequately insured.

Determining Ownership

Another important thing to do is find out how the real property is owned and how it should be distributed. Real property can be held individually, in trust, jointly with rights of survivorship, as tenants by the entirety, as tenants in common, or as a life estate. It’s important to determine how the real property is owned and if it’s part of the decedent’s estate.

Selling the Property

If a Last Will and Testament is probated, the New York executor must review the terms of the will to determine if the real property passes to a beneficiary or is part of the residuary estate. This will make a big difference in whether the executor can sell the property and have proceeds added to the estate balance. If the real property passes to an individual or entity, then the executor must transfer the title to the real property to that individual or entity and can’t sell it without court approval.

Without a Will

If there is no Last Will and Testament or estate planning guidelines to rely on, and the house was owned solely by the decedent, then the real property will pass by the laws of intestacy to the decedent’s heirs. If the real property is owned in a trust, then the trustee must follow the terms of the trust that relate to the real property.

If it’s determined that the fiduciary can sell the real property and it’s in the best interest of the estate or trust, then the fiduciary should try to see if they can locate any documentation related to the real property like:

  • Mortgage documents
  • Certificates of occupancy
  • Property tax bills
  • Surveys

These documents may help the fiduciary understand if there will be any issue when clearing the title to the property. The fiduciary may also want to hire a certified real estate appraiser to determine an accurate value of the real property or sign a listing agreement with a real estate broker to assist with the sale.

Many considerations and stages are involved in selling real property when a loved one passes away. It’s important to speak with an estate planning professional who can help you navigate the many New York estate administration or trust administration pitfalls.

Create an estate plan with experienced estate planning and elder law lawyers designed for efficient trust and estate administration in New York. The knowledgeable and compassionate team at Russo Law Group, P.C., provides professional services and advice to your family during the trust and estate administration process. Take advantage of our comprehensive website as well as our free seminars and webinars to learn more about how Russo Law Group, P.C. provides peace of mind. Please contact our law firm to speak with one of our experienced elder law and estate planning attorneys today at 1 (800) 680-1717.

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