Q: My dad owned a house in NC when he died with a will. Who owns the house now, the estate or the heirs?
My dad lived in Greensboro, retired to Hilton Head. He had a SC will, with I filed with Beaufort County Probate Court. I filed an Ancillary Estate with the Alamance County Probate Court, specifically for the sale of the house. As Executor, I signed listing agreement and the sales contract. Now at closing, the closing attorney is requiring all heirs and their spouses sign documents and insists on directly distributing the proceeds to the heirs. The estate has some outstanding debt that was to be paid when the house sold. Shouldn't the proceeds from the sale of the house go directly to the Estate bank account?
A: Unless the will directly conveys real property to the estate or Executor, title to real property vests in the devisees at the death of the owner. That is why the closing attorney wants the signatures of all the devisees and their spouses on the deed. Typically, proceeds from the sale of the property would go directly to the devisees, rather than the estate.
However, the Executor has the right (and obligation) to bring real property back into the estate when it is necessary to pay debts of the estate. The best thing to do in this situation is to place the proceeds in an escrow account until you can determine whether and how much of the proceeds will be needed to pay the estate's debts. You are right to worry about distributing the funds now: if there are not enough funds in the estate to pay the debts, you will be personally liable as the Executor for those debts. You should not distribute the house proceeds to the devisees until you are sure that the estate's debts are completely paid.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.