The MLO Minute: By Dennis McAndrews, Esq. and JIllian Zacks, Esq.
When an individual dies with a will, an executor is appointed to manage the affairs of the estate, and if the individual dies without a will or intestate, an administrator is appointed to perform these functions. Some executors and administrators operate under a misperception that they are not under an obligation to maintain and protect undesirable real estate and personal property which passes through the estate. This can be a very expensive mistake for an executor or administrator, as recently pointed out in a Pennsylvania appellate court decision where the administrator of an estate was charged with the costs of a court-ordered entry into a dilapidated property with dangerous personal property inside.
In Estate of Guyaux v. Township of North Fayette, an individual died intestate, leaving his daughter and son as the only heirs to a dilapidated house and its chaotic contents. The contents were described by a Sheriff’s Sergeant as “one of the most hazardous and disgusting places he had ever seen“, and which contained 586 poorly maintained firearms, many of which were loaded and in very bad condition. The decedent’s daughter had been appointed as the administratrix of the estate. For reasons not stated in the court’s opinion, the administratrix and her brother opted to inherit the house and its contents rather than disclaiming the property. Although the trial court gave her several months to secure and clean the property, and to deal with the hazardous conditions on that property, no action was taken. Due to the inaction, the court ordered local law enforcement officials to enter the premises, secure it, deal with the many firearms in question, and abate dangerous conditions. The administratrix was then ordered to reimburse the local township and Sheriff for their approximately $13,000 in costs in securing the property and rendering it less unsafe.
This assessment against the administratrix could have been avoided by declining an appointment as administratrix through a renunciation, cleaning up the property on her own at the cost of the estate without a court order, and/or renouncing her interest in the real estate and the personal property (the guns). Of course, even if she had renounced her interest in the real estate and personal property, but was nonetheless appointed as administratrix, she would still have had the obligation to properly secure and maintain the property for the other beneficiaries of the estate.
In circumstances where real estate or significant personal property is part of an estate, it is critical to obtain the advice of competent counsel regarding the proper maintenance of all property, which often includes hiring outside services to assist in this process and maintaining proper insurance on the property in question. If our firm can be of assistance, call us today at 610-648-9300 or Contact Us Here !