If my dad passed away and made me the executor of his Will, what is considered “tangible person property”?

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If my dad passed away and made me the executor of his Will, what is considered “tangible person property”?

His checking and savings accounts are POD to my sister and there are no other cash funds. The house is in reverse mortgage with no equity left. He has 3 cars but worth very little under $500 each. The estate has borrowed money from my sister to pay the funeral expenses. There won’t be enough money from selling the cars to pay off both my sister and the credit cards. What is considered tangible person property and can be sold to pay his bills? Clothes, personal photos, furniture, automotive tools?

Asked on October 9, 2012 under Estate Planning, Minnesota

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Under the circumstances you describe, your dad's "tangible personal property" consists of clothes, photos, furniture, etc.  In Florida, all or most of those items would be "exempt property" and not subject to creditors' claims even if your family opened a probate estate.  It appears that your dad's estate does not have sufficient assets to pay his creditors.

The bank accounts would be paid directly to the beneficiary listed on the POD account.  In most states, including Florida, POD accounts pass outside the estate and are not subject to creditors' claims.  It is possible that some state statutes require this type of asset or account to be included in the estate and made available to pay creditors' claims. 

If the home truly has no equity above the reverse mortgage, you and your siblings are not responsible to make up any shortfall.  Depending on the reverse mortgage contract, the mortgagee may take title to the property directly or may have to foreclose the mortgage - either way, you are not obligated to pay the expense of probate for the benefit of the mortgagee.

The cars do not seem worth paying the expense of probate to me.  I suggest that you consult an estate or probate lawyer in your state to determine whether there is any reason for you even to open a probate estate.  You may be better served to do nothing.  If your dad's creditors wish to pursue his assets, they can petition to open an estate.  If they do, you can disclaim any right to serve as executor, turn over any property that is included in the estate, and walk away.


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