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When Real Estate Properties Go Through Probate


If a family member has named you as the personal representative of their estate, and you are starting the probate process for that estate, friends have probably already started reassuring you that probate is usually formulaic and painless and that, apart from having to pay some bills and taxes from the estate, you will not have any trouble inheriting the assets that your family member bequeathed to you.  In fact, the complexity of probate depends on many factors.  In general, it is easier to deal with liquid assets, such as currency, which are easy to divide; real estate properties, like houses and empty lots of land, make things more complicated.  If you are a personal representative or beneficiary of an estate in probate that includes real estate properties, a Washington DC probate lawyer can help you ensure that you receive your rightful inheritance.

The Trouble with Real Estate Properties

If Mr. X has $500,000 in the bank when he dies, and his will specifies that his four children are to inherit equal shares of the money, then when his estate settles, each of the heirs will receive almost $125,000.  (The amount will be slightly lower because it will be one quarter of what is left after paying estate taxes and creditors’ claims.)  If he leaves his mansion in Potomac, Maryland to the four children, however, he is asking for trouble.  Anselm wants to live in the mansion with his wife and children; his brother Branwell also wants to live in the house with his wife and family, but his wife and Anselm’s wife are mortal enemies.  Meanwhile, their sisters, Cordelia and Dorcas, live on the West Coast.  Cordelia owns a house in Malibu and does not want to uproot her family to move to Maryland, but she wants to rent out the family mansion and share the proceeds with her siblings.  Dorcas wants to sell the mansion and take a lump sum of cash.

Clearly, there is no solution that will satisfy all the siblings.  Anselm or Branwell could try to buy out the rest of the family, and Cordelia and Dorcas would probably agree to that, but if neither brother agrees to sell his share to the other, they could be in for a long court battle.  Furthermore, one brother could only buy out the other siblings if he has enough money to pay three quarters of the appraised value of the house.  The best solution in this case is probably a probate sale.

How Probate Sales Work

Selling a real estate property that is in probate usually requires the court’s permission.  The personal representative should try to sell the property for at least 90 percent of its appraised value.  If this is not possible, the personal representative can ask the court to agree to a lower sale price.  Even if the court agrees, the heirs whose inheritance would be reduced because of the lower sale price might object.  The best way to avoid problems is to work closely with a probate lawyer.

Let Us Help You Today

A probate lawyer can help you avoid disputes related to probate sales and can stand up for your rights if a dispute arises.  Contact the Washington DC probate lawyers at Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. or call 202-362-5900.


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