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How Long Does an Executor Have to Sell a House

James Anderson

June 30, 2021

The role of executor is typically not one that is highly envied or sought after. Nevertheless, an executor's job is extremely important in handling the estate of the deceased, and there are many responsibilities placed on the executor's shoulders. 

One of those many responsibilities is selling the property of the deceased individual. How much time does the executor have to sell the house?

Unfortunately, there's not a direct answer that we can give because there's not a universally set time limit. There are many factors that play into how much time an executor has to sell.

Luckily we're going to talk about the process and inform you so you know what to do when you find yourself in the position of executor.

What is the Role of an Executor?

The executor, or executrix (a term that is used to refer to female executors), is responsible for handling all the affairs of a deceased person.

Before an individual dies, he or she declares an executor in their will who is in charge of settling what is done with his or her estate. After their death, the executor conducts business on their behalf. 

The business of the estate involves many various tasks and things to be settled. Here are just a few of the many important responsibilities the executor bears:

Submit Will to the Court

The very first document that needs to be submitted by the executor to the court is the deceased person's will. This will set the process in motion and the executor will then be able to carry out their duties.

Without a will, the process becomes much more complicated. Because there are no instructions left behind, many decisions will be left up to the court and the state laws. 

This can create a lot of tension amongst the heirs of the estate. Some might think that their loved one wanted something to turn out differently, but without a will, there is no way of knowing that. Hurt feelings can result from the outcome of the distribution of the estate.

Bottom line: If there is a will, submit it quickly to the court.

Inform Others of The Individual's Death

When a person has passed, it is not broadcast to all people or personnel who need to know. The responsibility of notifying others of a person's passing is another responsibility given to the executor. 

Among those who need to be notified of the decedent's passing are many services, benefits, subscriptions he or she was receiving, as well as the Social Security Administration.

Set up Bank Account for the Estate

Another one of the first items of business should be to set up a bank account for the estate.

It is difficult to oversee someone's estate if assets are spread out and hard to find, so it helps to gather them.

Once the bank account is established, it will make the process of handling the estate easier since all funds will be located in one place. The probate process can then be funded by that account.

File Inventory of Assets

Filing an inventory of the assets can be one of the toughest jobs given to the executor.

Assets may or may not be mentioned in the will, which means that there could be others lying around that the executor needs to gather.

The decedent might have other assets that they either acquired after the will or simply forgot to mention in the document.

It is crucial for the executor to locate all the assets so that they can pay any dues necessary and then equally distribute the wealth among their heirs.

Pay Debts and Taxes

Once a decedent has passed on, they are not exempt from paying their debts and taxes. 

Using the money from the bank account previously set up, the executor pays for any remaining debts and taxes that the person they are representing owes. 

Distribute Assets

After debts and taxes have been paid for, the remaining assets are given to the heirs. An executor distributes the assets according to how the decedent directs, and it is important to follow what is stated in the will in order to avoid quarrels and upsets over how the assets are divided up.

Pile Of One Dollar Bills

Apply for Probate

After submitting the will to the court for review and approval, the executor should apply for probate to begin the process of settling the estate.

Keep reading to learn more about what exactly probate is and why it is important to the timeline of an executor selling a house.

Probate is an important process and it is a major factor in the timeline of an executor selling the property. 

Keep Records

The executor should meticulously keep correct records of all the proceedings after the deceased person has passed. It is important to write down everything that happens with the estate so that everything is accounted for. 

If anything comes into question during the processor in the future, the record that is kept will stand as a witness for what happened and what actions were taken with the dealing of the estate. 

Hire an Attorney for Help

If this seems like a little too much for the executor to handle, then it would be wise to hire an attorney for legal advice and to assist with the process of settling the estate.

In fact, for peace of mind, we recommend and encourage hiring an attorney to help with the process. The attorney will be more familiar with the local laws and regulations of the state which will make the process much easier for the executor.

What is Probate?

The short answer is the legal procedure that occurs after the death of your loved one to provide proof of their will.

The long answer: the will is "proved" in a court of law and to be accepted as a valid public document. To determine that is the true last testament of the deceased person, or whereby the estate is settled.Ã

What Happens During Probate?

Since probate is the process of settling the deceased's estate, there are many tasks that fall under that umbrella.

During this procedure, the court authenticates the will of the deceased and will also approve the person named as executor in the will. They will also account for all of the assets and evaluate their worth. 

After these tasks have been accomplished, the assets are used to pay off the taxes and debts that the deceased person owes. Then, the assets are distributed among those individuals that are declared as heirs. 

Probate is just the legal process to oversee that the process of distributing the estate is performed correctly.

How Long Does Probate Last?

It depends on factors such as:

  • the number of beneficiaries
  • how close the beneficiaries live
  • the number of assets and where they may all be located
  • tax returns
  • whether the decedent had any uncommon assets. 

Other factors could be if the beneficiaries choose to be civilized and cordial or if there are multiple wills found that don't specify which one to enforce.

Whether all beneficiaries will agree with the outcome of the estate could also potentially extend the duration of probate.

The length of probate can vary widely between different estates.

Insight: It is not uncommon that the beneficiaries often bicker over what is fair and what is not. This is the number one issue that drawls out a probate process.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

The cost of the probate process will depend on a variety of factors:

  • including the attorney's fees
  • the size of the estate
  • the number of beneficiaries

Keep in mind: you may also be liable for hourly fees when communicating with your attorney.

The Process of Selling the House

Let's say a close friend or relative of yours has just died and you have been named the executor. Among the long list of duties you have placed upon your shoulders, one of the duties is to sell or otherwise distribute the property of the deceased.

A few questions you have might be:

  • What are my responsibilities that come with this duty?
  • How much time am I given to accomplish all duties of the executor?
  • What if not everyone agrees with the outcome of the decedent's property?

When Does the House Need to be Sold by the Executor?

If you determine that the house should be sold and the profit redistributed among the heirs, the house of the deceased person needs to be sold before probate has been closed by the court.

This sounds very simple in theory, but in reality, making sure the property is dealt with can be a long and stressful process. 

The time limit of probate often varies from case to case ranging from a couple of months to many years.

This large range is due to a variety of factors. There could be complications with settling the estate, disputes by beneficiaries as to who should inherit certain assets, and when all the results of what will be done with the estate have finally been decided.

Executor Responsibilities with Property

When it comes to being in charge of the decedent's property, an executor has a few key responsibilities.

The first responsibility is to ensure the safety of the property. A few suggested ways to do this are to possibly change the locks on the house, make sure that there is adequate insurance to cover the property, and secure any and all valuables that belonged to the person who passed.

Next, the executor needs to list the house for sale. It is generally recommended to go ahead and list the house on the open market

It might be wise to hire a realtor to help with selling the home. Since inherited homes are a little different, there will be some unfamiliar paperwork that you'll have to fill out.

Other than that, the rest of the home selling process should be like most other average home sales.

When the house is sold, the court needs to approve the sale. In some cases, only the signature of the executor is needed to move forward. Sometimes, however, signatures of other beneficiaries are required in order to move forward with the sale.

Once sold, the executor will collect the money from the sale. The money can be deposited directly to the executor if they are the only beneficiary, but if there are other beneficiaries, then the money is distributed between them.

Why is Having a Will Important?

Anyone who has previously dealt with the death of a loved one likely understands the necessity of a will. There are countless reasons you should have a will, from easing the burden on your family to preventing feuds over your estate. 

A will offers clarity and prevents unnecessary confusion over who's in charge and who does or does not inherit certain assets.

If an executor is not named, then the court decides who will be appointed as the executor.

If there is no will found after the death, then the state distributes the property and assets to the next of kin of the deceased.

The order of relatives who can inherit some of the individual's estate varies between states, which is why a will is a key to establishing what the deceased person desires instead of it being left up to the state to decide.

In the case of selling a house, everyone involved in the estate will be much happier knowing that someone the deceased person knows and trusts is in charge of the property rather than the local court and state's laws.

Watch this video to learn more in-depth about whether you should have a will or a living trust

Other Reasons to Have a Will

Besides taking care of your assets and liabilities after you pass, there are numerous reasons why creating a will to be used after your death is the desired choice. 

First, a will is very easy to make, so it wouldn't be too much of a hassle to create one. 

A will can also offer instruction for your heirs as to what they should do with your digital asset. Digital assets can include online accounts and digital files or property.

You can let them know if you want accounts closed or given to someone, or you can distribute your digital assets.

With a will, you can also choose to support certain causes with your financial assets. By taking action like that, you can leave a legacy for years to come.

The very best reason to create a will is for the peace of mind that it brings. The lives of your family and friends won't become pure chaos when you pass away. They will love you that much more for leaving them instructions instead of them having to guess what to do.

Final Thoughts

There are many responsibilities that come with being the executor, but with the right preparation, help, and resources this job can be made a little easier.

When you find yourself being called upon to step up as the executor for a decedent, you can take courage with the knowledge you have gained about the process of settling the estate. If you are an executor and you are wondering if you can sell the house to your self then check out this post.

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