What happens when beneficiaries can’t agree on the disposition of estate property?

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What happens when beneficiaries can’t agree on the disposition of estate property?

My father passed away nearly 6 years ago. There are 4 siblings who inherited his house. The executor of the estate (my brother) has done virtually nothing to sell the home or settle the estate. We have someone who wants to rent or possibly buy the house. Now 3 of us said that it was OK for this family to rent or buy it. My brother is the only one with a problem. Do we have to all agree on what is done, does majority rule or does my brother as executor have all the say?

Asked on August 15, 2014 under Estate Planning, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

None of the above. If there is a will directing the disposition of the asset (e.g. "I direct that my home be sold and the proceeds be distributed to my heirs. . ."), the terms of the will control what happens.

If there is no will, or there is a will and it provides no guidance, then if the beneficiaries disagree as to what should happen and they can't work it out (e.g. your brother could offer to buy the other three of you out), a court determination (an order or injunction) will be needed to direct the dispositon of the asset. As a practical  matter, usually, if the beneficiaries can't agree, the court will direct that the property be sold and the proceeds distributed--but you need a court order to do that. Either the executor or any beneficiary challening what is currently being done can bring a legal action in probate or surrogate's court seeking a court determination. It is recommended that anyone seeking to do this retain an attorney to help--given what is at stake (a 1/4 share of house), it's well worth it to get expert legal assistance.


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