If I’m the only legal heir, am I immediately considered the executor of my parents estate?

UPDATED: Aug 22, 2011

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If I’m the only legal heir, am I immediately considered the executor of my parents estate?

My father passed away recently with no Will a year after my mom leaving me as the only surviving heir and a large debt on the house. I would personally prefer to allow the bank to foreclose on the property since I believe the value of the house is lower than the mortgage. What I want to know is, am I still automatically considered the executor of the estate thereby making me liable for the property taxes incurred on the house until the bank does foreclose (they’ve estimated it would take them 2 years) even though I never went to court to try and claim the estate?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Florida


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your losses.  And for you problems that have resulted.  You are the "automatic heir" as you put it or the sole beneficiary at law, meaning that you inherit everything.  But you need to apply to the court to become the personal representative of the estate in order to be able to do anything with regard to the estate assets.  Anything, not just with the house.  An estate can be insolvent, meaning that the debt is greater than the assets.  And although walking away may be easiest it may not be best.  You would never be liable.  The estate would be liable.  Is there any way that you can have someone take a look at things for you and see if you can negotiate with the bank for a deed in lieu of foreclosure and waiving the deficiency or a short sale waiving the deficiency?  Speak with someone about the options and if they make sense here.  Good luck.

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