Real estate is often a major part of the gifts which pass from a loved one’s estate to the beneficiaries. Unlike stocks and other liquid assets, real estate often has added sentimental value to the beneficiaries with a feeling of history and connection to the property. Many families want to honor their loved one’s wishes by handling the real estate with care.
It is very important for estate executors to take steps to protect real estate during the estate administration process. Executors have a fiduciary duty to protect the real estate and can be held responsible for damage or destruction to the property.
What should executors do to protect real estate?
The personal representative of a Pennsylvania estate, also known as an executor or administrator, has the legal authority to manage the estate assets. But with this authority also comes the responsibility to preserve the value of the assets for the beneficiaries. Estate representatives have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to ensure that the assets are protected and can be held responsible for depreciation in asset values.
How should an executor manage estate assets?
Clients often ask me what they should do with the estate’s liquid assets during the time of administration but before distribution. For example, should the representative immediately liquidate all of the assets? Should cash be reinvested during a potentially lengthy probate process?
A personal representative can be held personally liable for any diminution of the estate’s liquid funds. This means that if the funds are invested and a loss occurs, or otherwise mishandled, the estate’s beneficiaries or creditors can pursue the personal representative’s own assets through a surcharge action. This can be true even if the deceased left behind stocks and the representative failed to sell the stocks before a decline in market value.
Should the estate’s cash be invested by the personal representative?
My firm has an intense passion for assisting people with an entrepreneurial spirit. I sincerely value and applaud the efforts of those who create and grow small businesses of all types. In the case of a loved one who passed away with a business interest, the business interest often passes through the deceased’s estate. But business interests can present real challenges for the surviving family members and confusion about what should be done.
When a family member leaves behind a business interest, the surviving family often faces questions about the estate’s rights in the business. This uncertainty is completely understandable because the law on this point is complex. It is important for the estate representative to navigate these interests carefully. There are many potential financial and legal repercussions for estate representatives who mishandle the inheritance tax or fail to adequately protect the interests of the estate beneficiaries.
Challenges with Business Interests in an Estate