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 first thing a Pennsylvania estate executor should do is secure the property itself by changing the locks and taking possession of the property. Executors have the right to take possession of real estate except beneficiaries who were living there with the consent of the deceased person at the time of passing. If the property is not inhabited, it is important to prevent authorized access. Unauthorized occupants run the risk of delaying the estate administration process and could result in the need for an ejectment action for removal of the occupants.
It is also critical to maintain hazard and liability insurance on the property. Properties which are subject to a mortgage almost always include hazard insurance as part of the mortgage payment. But if the property is free and clear, it is imperative that the executor verify coverage on the property. A loved one may have cancelled the property insurance upon conclusion of the mortgage without the family’s knowledge. The responsibility for a property lost to a fire or liability claim (such as a personal injury claim) falls to the executor. Executors can be held responsible for any loss through a surcharge action.
As a probate attorney to estate executors, I help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to a property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:
Phone: (215) 918-4242
If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.