Real Property

The Virginia Bar Foundation Trust Administration Manual states“(a)ccordingly, the (executor) must determine the nature of the decedent’s ownership interest in real property by answering these questions:

a. How is title held?

b. Did the decedent own the real estate in fee simple?

c. Who are the other co-tenants, if any, and what are their interests?

d. Does the will give the (executor) the power of sale over the real estate?

e. If the (executor) has a power of sale, he or she must determine the best method for handling the sale. The (executor) should, if practicable, obtain the beneficiaries’ approval for the sale of real estate.

f. Whether or not the (executor) has a power of sale over real property, he or she must take steps to maintain the property.

g. With respect to any mortgages on the property for which the decedent is liable, the (executor) must identify the mortgage holder and inform the holder directly of a change of address;

h. Determine whether there is any mortgage insurance payable upon the death of the decedent; and,

i. Make arrangements to pay monthly mortgage payments.

The (executor) should decide whether to discontinue or transfer utilities and advise the utility companies accordingly. In addition, he or she should maintain adequate insurance on the property until the designated beneficiary assumes control of it.”

The personal representative’s should provide for security, interior and lawn maintenance and essential repair. 

Security starts with changing the locks to the exterior doors. 

The personal representative will coordinate closely with building management with condominiums as the concerns differ from a stand alone house. 

The will or statute must specifically empower the personal representative’s to exercise control over real property, or there is none. If the personal representative’s is without control, undertake close coordinating with the devisees of the property. 

The deceased may have owned multiple appreciated properties. Family members in the interview will inform you that the mortgage was paid by other than the decedent. The personal representative’s may have to trace the source of funds used for the purchase of the property or pay the mortgage to verify the estate does not have an ownership interest or claim in the property.