One of the most valuable assets many people own is their home. Not only is it likely one of the more valuable assets with regard to money, it's also something that has sentimental value to many. Heirs might have grown up in the home or remember fond occasions spent there, so it's not surprising that the family house is often at the heart of probate disputes. For an executor, there are numerous ways to misstep when dealing with a family home that has been willed to multiple people. Here are some tips for keeping ahead of the conflict.
First, never take action without a court order on estate assets, especially when you're dealing with real estate. That means not selling the home or making agreements about the property until those arrangements are supported by court documentation. One mistake executors can make is being too quick to sell or otherwise dispose of a home, thinking that they can split the money between the heirs. That money might get mixed with other assets from the estate, though, or heirs might have another solution in mind.
An executor should maintain properties within the estate while the estate is in probate, if at all possible. That means inventorying the assets and seeking assistance with handling any legal, financial or other matters that might relate to a home or property. For example, an executor is usually allowed to use estate funds to keep a property cleaned and pay any mortgage on it, but they aren't allowed to make large and unnecessary expenditures such as remodels.
Finally, an executor might need to work to seek a fair solution to splitting a family home. Working with a lawyer to ensure everything is aboveboard, an executor might present heirs with out-of-the-box options for sharing the value of the home.
Source: Bankrate, "How to split up the willed family home," Jay Macdonald, accessed March 24, 2017