How To Sell An Estate Property Such As A House or Condo Fast
Getting The Sale of Estate Property Done Quickly
Selling estate property has several components: commencing an estate proceeding; the appointment of an executor or administrator; clearing title; and finalizing the estate. Often times, beneficiaries and heirs want a property sold as quickly as possible due to ongoing maintenance expenses, a foreclosure proceeding, pesky tenants, high operating costs, etc. However, in some counties, the appointment of a fiduciary and the issuance of letters testamentary or letters of administration can take several months. Absent urgent circumstances, it’s not uncommon for the appointment of an executor or estate administrator to take 4-6 months in Queens or Kings County (Brooklyn) due to the heavy backlog.
Counties such as New York (Manhattan) and Richmond (Staten Island) are more efficient than others. New York Surrogate’s Courts are willing to expedite a petition if there is an urgency in which the estate may be prejudiced by the delay. Wanting to cash in on an inheritance as soon as possible is not a legitimate ground for expediting your petition ahead of thousands before you all waiting for the same relief.
Do Not Try This on Your Own
If you are in a rush to sell or fear that there may be some controversy over the decedent’s will or the appointment of an individual, do not attempt a probate or an administration proceeding on your own. I cannot stress this enough. We’ve had several clients retain us after two or more years in Surrogate’s Court limbo. Its been a recurring theme: they either went about it pro-se or hired a general practice attorney in lieu of an estate lawyer. We recently had a situation in which a client we spoke to over a year ago contacted us again. The person stated that her and her family members hired a lawyer recommended to them by their church group. Within a span of 8 months, nothing had been filed with the court. To make matters worse, during this time, two family members with an interest in the estate had died. Admitting the decedent’s will into probate was already challenging being that it was so old and the witnesses to the will had already passed. Given the state of the estate, the client now had to spend three times her initial retainer cost and defend against a will challenge. Not to mention the money lost on hiring the general practice lawyer.
Step #1 – Open an Estate
Opening an estate in Surrogate’s Court can be a straightforward process or a very complex drawn-out battle. If the decedent died owning a home in his or her name, then very likely than not, a title company will require an estate fiduciary to be appointed before you can sell the property. There are rare circumstances where a title company will accept an affidavit of heirship detailing the decedent’s family background ie how many times he was married and to who, how many children he had, and who the heirs-at-law are. This may be acceptable only if ALL interested parties are on board with the sale and all parties cooperate with signing title transfer documents. If one person cannot be found or is not in agreement with selling the home, there can be no closing. This is why I always advise my clients to open an estate as soon as possible! The last thing you want to happen is to enter into a contract of sale and for the title company to mandate letters testamentary or letters of administration. This can set the sale back for several months.
Step #2 – Find a Buyer
Don’t wait to be appointed as a fiduciary to start making plans. Start deciding early on who you will hire as the real estate broker or whether you intend to sell to an investor. Many times, investors review dockets at the Surrogate’s Court to see whether an estate includes real estate. If the property sparks their interest, they will make contact with you to express their interest and make an offer. Don’t run and take the first offer you receive. Investors are looking for a bargain, while you should be looking to sell for fair market value. Review all offers, don’t make rash decisions and consult with your probate attorney. A lot of investors will try to lure you in with a “quick all-cash closing within 30 days”. However, often times, this is not the case. Closings are often pushed back due the buyer-investor’s delay in securing a loan from a lender. If the buyer appears sketchy, ask whether they have any recent closings to show you. If they claim to be a developer, ask them to provide you with addresses of projects they recently developed. Always refer all questions to your estate attorney or real estate lawyer.
Step #3 – Clear Title
Once you’ve accepted an offer or agreed to a sale price with the buyer, the next step is contract execution. When the contract is signed by the buyer and the estate representative (executor or administrator), the title company hired by the buyer will issue a report detailing all the documents they’ll need or issues to be fixed before they give the ok for the transaction to proceed to the closing table. If there are any open violations on the property, they’ll need to be paid and cleared prior to closing. Building violations can take 3-4 weeks to clear in the system. If you need to sell an estate property fast, make sure to check the department of building website and other sites for open violations. Don’t wait for the title company to bring it up – address issues early and head on. If there are tenants living in the home, file an eviction proceeding as soon as possible. Do not rely on the tenant’s word that they are moving. Eviction can take several months depending on the circumstances. Your probate lawyer will tell you what to bring for the closing, but its typically keys, ID, and updated certified letters of administration or letters testamentary.
Step #4 – Finalize Estate
Its not uncommon for heirs and beneficiaries of an estate to expect to receive their inheritance at closing. However, where there are outstanding expenses, reimbursements to be made, and tax returns to be filed, parties can’t get paid at closing. There are instances, however, where beneficiaries can receive a check at closing – if an accounting is finalized and signed off by all parties. Typically, a check for the sale proceeds is made payable to the Estate (ie Estate of John Smith), which the executor deposits into an estate bank account. The executor then works on settling the estate by finalizing the accounting, having everyone sign release forms, paying debts, and typing up any other loose ends. If the circumstances permit, an accounting can be finalized before closing. This way, parties can get paid at closing. Be aware that settling an estate has many nuances and can cost you dearly if not executed property. Consult with your estate lawyer to make sure all boxes are checked off before you start issuing checks.
If you need to sell an estate home fast, contact us for a quick consultation. Our clients include executors, administrators, trustees, beneficiaries, heirs-at-law, creditors and guardians. Contact us at 646-233-0826.
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