One of the duties of an executor (also called an administrator) of an Ohio probate estate is to manage the deceased's personal property. Depending on the circumstances, this may call for liquidating or selling some property. This often takes place via an estate sale.
While estate sales may be held for other reasons besides the death of a property owner, such as a move, they are a common way of disposing of personal property when someone has passed away. What restrictions are there on executors with respect to conducting an estate sale in Ohio?
An executor must get permission to conduct an estate sale. If the probate court is satisfied that conducting a sale would be in the best interests of the estate, it will authorize the executor to carry out a sale. The estate sale may happen at any point in the probate process, and may be private or open to the public.
So far, so good. But an executor can't put just any estate property up for sale. If there is property that has been specifically bequeathed to someone, that property may not be sold (unless estate debts are such that the property must be liquidated in order to meet them). Similarly, personal property that a surviving spouse wishes to take at its appraised value should not be sold. Property that was specifically bequeathed to someone should not be sold, unless the sale of the property is necessary to pay estate debts, or the intended recipient consents to the sale. If a surviving spouse or beneficiary is entitled to the distribution in kind of certain property, and demands it prior to the sale, that property should also not be sold at estate sale.
If the deceased's will requests that specific personal property not be sold, the probate court will likely direct that the executor comply with that wish. If an interested party later petitions the court to allow the sale of that property, however, the court may allow it for good cause.
As with many of an executor's responsibilities, trouble with estate sales is avoided by being aboveboard and thorough. In addition to obtaining court permission well in advance of any proposed sale, be sure to provide adequate notice to heirs of the time and place of the sale. Rather than attempting to conduct a sale yourself, engage a reputable estate sale company to work with. In addition to saving the executor time and stress, these experienced sellers can likely obtain the best financial result for the benefit of the estate.
From a practical standpoint, although heirs have the right to be present at an estate sale, they may not wish to be. It can be very painful to witness strangers casually picking through or commenting on items that one finds personally significant.
If you are serving as executor of an Ohio probate estate, you are probably working with a probate attorney. Consult with your attorney to discuss the best way to obtain permission for and orchestrate the sale, notify heirs, and prepare any necessary accountings afterward.