After the probate litigation was settled, we were contacted by the Administrator of an estate who needed to sell probate real estate. Two homes had to be sold. One home was income property and the other was the deceased parents’ home.
After a two-hour telephone consultation discussing the status of the litigation we scheduled time to meet in person to discuss what needed to be done. The administrator was very upset. They did not feel they were represented by the probate lawyer or that the lawyer knew how to litigate the case. It was explained to us that the case was not something the lawyer took on thinking it would end up in litigation.
How to Become Administrator of Estate
The difference between executor and administrator of estate is an executor is generally named in a Will. If there is no Will, then a petition is filed with the court requesting to be appointed as administrator. Probate is a legal process supervised by the court to administer an estate of a person who died with a Will or without a Will. The process allows the transfer of a deceased person’s assets to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries.
Can an administrator of an estate be a beneficiary? The answer is, yes.
Can an Administrator of an Estate Sell Property?
The powers of an administrator of an estate are granted by the court. The authority may be limited authority or full authority under IAEA or Independent Administration of Estates Act. The video below explains selling a home under IAEA.
Administrator Selling Real Estate After Settling Probate Litigation
This was a matter of estate disputes between siblings fighting over inheritance rights. Family disputes over property are not uncommon. As mentioned above, the administrator was not happy with the probate lawyer or how the dispute was handled.
At the time the administrator called us, the matter was settled after a year of litigation. As it was explained to us, the estate attorney told the administrator that they did not have to attend the hearing. Reportedly, at the hearing, the attorney agreed to a settlement that our client did not agree to.
We want to be crystal clear that our role as a Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist to sell real estate. In that role, we listen to our clients. We understand the stress and overwhelm they feel. We are not just a real estate broker. We are people too. We have managed our loved one’s estate and grieved and mourned their loss while attending to the affairs of their estate. It might well be the crappiest job on the planet yet someone has got to do it.
The administrator called daily to “vent”. In the beginning, it was venting about the attorney. Later it was about work, life, and everything in between. We are not therapists yet any kind, caring and compassionate heart can listen. Every call would start with an apology for taking up our time but they just needed someone to talk to and they had no one else that would listen.
The rants about the probate attorney were non-stop. The administrator forwarded many email communications to us from the attorney to “prove” how rude and dismissive the attorney was to them. Adding to that the attorney:
- did not return phone calls
- left on a 3-week vacation without anyone covering
- lost documents that were personally delivered to the office
- failed to respond and communicate with the sibling’s attorney
- the list of issues and complaints went on and on
The take away is we must all be mindful of who we hire to represent us in legal matters. If a case turns to litigation, and we just never really know if that will happen, the attorney must have the resources and the skills to defend claims against the estate.
To say that the administrator was angry is an understatement. A lis pendens were recorded on both homes that needed to be sold. The probate litigation was settled. All we needed to do is create a plan and get to work.
Probate Real Estate | Sale of Investment Property
A marketing plan and schedule were created and approved by the administrator. Pre-sale inspections were completed. Marketing photos were taken. The home was listed on the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”) and was under contract in 11 days. Our strategy is to keep our listings on the market for at least a full week to ensure as many showings as possible. We would never know if the highest and best offer gets accepted if the administrator accepts the first offer that comes in.
Four (4) offers were received by the offer due date. The home closed escrow in 30 days with no issues. The final sales price was more than the list price. The estate representative was happy and grateful to have one property sold!
Shortly after the investment property sold the administrator received notice that the sibling petitioned the court to have them removed for failing to do their job. It turned out that the probate attorney failed to communicate to the sibling’s attorney that the home (1) was listed and (2) it was sold.
In order to keep this G-Rated, we will say the administrator was beyond angry and asked us:
Can I fire my probate attorney?
That is a legal question and matter that a real estate broker cannot answer. We are not licensed to practice law. We can, however, recommend an attorney for our clients to consult with. That is exactly what we did. Within 1 hour our client was at one of our recommended attorney’s offices signing a Substitution of Attorneys which was immediately sent to the attorney our client fired.
The new probate attorney filed the document with the court and sent a copy to the sibling’s attorney and followed up with a phone call to the sibling’s attorney to update on the status of the estate administration.
The sibling’s attorney was thrilled to learn that the investment property was sold and we were moving forward in listing the primary residence. Given that they learned it was the attorney not doing their job and not the administrator, they allowed the administrator to continue to administer the estate.
These are head-shaking moments when we experience first hand how hiring the wrong people can potentially do harm to the estate. A claim against an administrator for a breach of their fiduciary duty is a serious claim.
This applies to all people involved in the probate process. We are not a one-size-fits-all industry! We are not created equal. Probate real estate is highly specialized and it requires specialized education, training, and experience.
This applies to title companies and escrow officers as well. Not only are the transactions probate sales, but a lis pendens was also recorded on the property and that needed to be dealt with by the escrow officer in collaboration with the attorneys.
Probate Real Estate | Sale of Primary Residence
When it came time to sell the primary residence there was a lot more work to do. All of the parents’ possession needed to be dealt with. After 30 plus years in the home, there was a lot to be inventoried by the estate representative. Once all of the possession were cleared out of the residence pre-sale inspections were ordered. The home was professionally cleaned, photos were taken, and the home was listed for sale.
After 9 days on the market, 4 offers received, an offer was accepted. The home closed escrow in less than 30 days for the full asking price with no issues.
Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist
If probate real estate were easy … anyone could do it. The bare naked truth is that too many people are doing it and doing it and limping along. Estate representatives have a fiduciary duty to act with prudence and a high standard of care. In this case, the representative reported receiving 43 letters from real estate agents “begging” to list the homes for sale … all claiming to be “experts”. Although it was a long time in the making, the decision to find another attorney was acting with prudence.
Unfortunately, some people take on more than they can manage because it is all bout the money to them and not focused on truly serving their clients. We are all about high tough service, not high volume sales. As a certified probate real estate specialist, we know what it takes to serve our probate and successor trustee clients. Most of the time they need more from us than selling the probate real estate. An administrator of an estate is wise to interview real estate agents and verify their experience, knowledge, and training in probate sales. When there is litigation involved, that’s an even bigger game-changer.