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Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. Practicality in Practice
  • ~ Washington DC Business Law Attorneys ~

If You Sell an Inherited Real Estate Property While the Estate Is Still in Probate, You Must Notify the Court


Your family member may have named you as the personal representative of their estate because of a professional qualification of yours.  Perhaps you have worked as a tax preparer, insurance agent, financial adviser, or some other occupation where you are used to dealing with financial and legal paperwork.  You might have a natural gift for filing forms, while the rest of your family dreads such tasks, but if you are a personal representative of a relative’s estate, do not treat probate as just another day at work.  Until the estate settles, you must work with the court on every detail and not attempt to take matters into your own hands.  Put another way, the inherited property is not yours to use as a display of your professional skill until after the estate settles.  If you have questions about what you can and cannot do while your family member’s estate is in probate, contact a Maryland probate lawyer.

The Real Estate Agent Who Was Sentenced to Prison for Selling Her Deceased Aunt’s House

Alma Lynch of Montgomery County, Maryland named two people as personal representatives of her estate; one was her domestic partner Clifton Terry, and the other was her niece Crystal Randall, a real estate agent who lived in Arizona.  Part of Lynch’s estate was a house in the same city in Arizona where Randall lived.  Therefore, Terry and Randall agreed that Randall should be in charge of selling the Arizona house.

It is legal to sell a real estate property that is part of an estate going through probate; in fact, sometimes it is the only way to make it possible to divide the estate in the manner specified in the decedent’s will.  The court must be involved throughout the process; it must approve the sale, and this is especially important if the personal representatives of the estate are unable to find a buyer who will pay a price equal to or greater than the appraised value of the property.  If the personal representative must sell the property below its appraised value, they must prove to the court that they made a diligent attempt to find the highest bidder.

Randall sold the Arizona house and, at the request of the title company, filed an “estate tax affidavit” with the court in Arizona.  In this affidavit, she claimed that the estate had settled and was valued at only $12,000.  Before the house sold, she opened a bank account in Arizona in the name of Lynch’s estate, listing herself as a personal representative authorized to deal with the account.  She had the proceeds from the sale, some $90,000 transferred to that account and, from there, to her own accounts and those of her children.  When Terry found out about this, he notified the court in Maryland, and Randall was tried and sentenced to 18 months in prison for embezzling from the estate.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Even though probate is usually a straightforward process, it helps to consult a lawyer to make sure that you are staying on the right side of the law.  Contact the Washington DC probate lawyers at Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for assistance today.

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