Can an executor install 1 of 5 beneficiaries in the family home rent free against the will of the other beneficiaries?

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Can an executor install 1 of 5 beneficiaries in the family home rent free against the will of the other beneficiaries?

The decedent was in assisted-living for several years. The executor got rid of the renters who were in the decedent’s home and is allowing one of the beneficiaries to live there rent free. Not all beneficiaries agree to this and want the beneficiary who is residing in the house to pay rent. The executor and free rent beneficiary say too bad. What are the legalities around this?

Asked on July 25, 2019 under Estate Planning, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

An executor is not allowed to benefit one beneficiary at the expense of the others; the executor's duty is to follow the terms of the will and be impartially loyal to all beneficiaries, and also to make reasonable or prudent economic decisions. A beneficiary who believes the executor is favoring one beneficiary over the others or making bad decisions (e.g. costing the estate rental income) can bring a kind of legal action in county court called an action for an "accounting." This is to, as the term implies, make the executor "account for" his or her management of the estate. If the court finds that the executor is acting inappropriately, it can order him or her do certain things (e.g. remove the rent-free beneficiary) and/or replace him or her as executor. This can be a difficult action for a non-lawyer to bring; you are strongly advised to consult with an attorney.


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