Executor won’t sell this house. What can we do?

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Q. Co-executors of will filed in California have refused to take any action in New Jersey where the decedent owns a rental home, the only asset of estate. The house must be sold to pay debts. The executors are not paying the mortgage, taxes or utilities, causing further debt and liens. Their plan is to do nothing and wait for the lender to foreclose on the house. What can be done? One executor is an attorney in New Jersey who is likely aware that foreclosures are seriously backlogged in courts and that by failing to probate and sell the house, creditors of estate will likely not be paid debts owed.
— Frustrated

A. That’s a messy situation.

You’ve got a problem with the executors.

As part of their fiduciary obligations, the executors must protect the assets of the estate and act to facilitate the disposition of the assets consistent with the will, said Steven Holt, an attorney and chair of the taxation, trusts and estates department at Mandelbaum Barrett PC in Roseland

“By not arranging for ancillary probate in New Jersey, they may be violating this duty,” Holt said. “However, their course of action could be appropriate if the value of the residence is less than the debt owed, and if the estate has no other assets that would be exposed to the liability for the shortfall.”

If that’s not the case, and assuming that you are a beneficiary, you can file a petition to have them removed as executors, Holt said.

But — the matter would have to be initiated in California because that’s where the will was filed.

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This story was originally published on March 18, 2022.

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