Salisbury, MD asked in Estate Planning for Virginia

Q: Can an executor of a will sell a house under his control for $1.00?

My brother-in-law was an abusive, substance-abusing man who was not involved in the first 20 years of his daughter’s life. Ten years ago, after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, he decided he wanted to be a ‘father’ to his daughter. He told his disabled daughter (unable to work due to seizures) he would take care of her then, and always, and that everything would be left to her (house, boat, car, investment accounts). He died without updating an old will. The will filed in courthouse specifies sale of house w/ proceeds divided between 3 parties. The three parties are: 1) His wealthy, alcoholic mother, aged 90; 2) His extremely wealthy brother, and 3) His disabled daughter (destitute). The bother & mother want to sell the house as specified in the will and they want “their share”. My niece, his daughter, wants only a place to live. QUESTION: If the executor (his brother) can be convinced to do so, can he sell the house to my sister for $1.00? Thank you.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Karen L. Rowell
Karen L. Rowell
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Harrisonburg, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: To sell the house for less than it's value would be a breach of fiduciary duty. However, if the other beneficiaries disclaimed their shares it would pass to whoever would take if they had predeceased, which could result in a larger share, or perhaps even the entire interest, passing to the daughter. You would need to have an attorney review the Will to determine who takes if they had predeceased, such as, does it pass to whoever survives out of the three named or does it pass to their heirs, such as other siblings of the decedent, or children of the brother. That would only work if the mother and brother are cooperative and if there is no one else in line to inherit.

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