Do I have legal access to my family home?

Several years ago my parents put all of my 5 sisters and myself on the title to the family home. When my dad died, his share went to my mother. She just recently died and her share was to be split between all us. However, 2 of my sisters are executors and they have refused access to the home.

Asked on January 27, 2019 under Estate Planning, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Until the home goes through probate, it belongs to the "estate," not the beneficiaries who will inherit it in the future. Therefore, while the home is in probate (prior to probate being completed), the beneficiaries do not have a right to it and can be excluded by the executors, who have the authority over the estate.
But the executors cannot unreasonably delay probate or distributing the home to the beneficiares. Executors are bound by what is called "fiduciary duty." This is the legal obligation to act loyally to the testator's (person making the will) wishes and to the interests of the beneficiaries; to not engage in "self dealing" or putting themselves ahead of the beneficiaries (or other beneficiaries, if the executors are also beneficiaries); and to use the same care and speed in acting that a person would for their own investments or assets (no unnecessary delays, etc.). If the executors are violating this duty, they can be removed as executors by a court; or ordered to do or not do certain things; or made to repay any amounts they took or profit they personally made from the estate. If you feel that your sisters are violating their fiduciary duty, speak to a probate lawyer about bringing a legal action to protect your rights.


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