Can the Executor of a Will Remove Items From Property Left to Siblings?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Can the Executor of a Will Remove Items From Property Left to Siblings?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

An executor or personal representative is the person in charge of handling a decedent's estate. This person has great power and responsibility to properly distribute the decedent's assets according to the will.

A business man standing next to a smiling couple in a house

But sometimes a will doesn't cover all of the assets the decedent owned at the time of their death. And sometimes these assets can be the center of hotly contested disputes between siblings about who should get the item. If this is the case, then an executor can remove an item for safekeeping to ensure a fair decision is made regarding distribution.

Executor's Obligations

The executor has many obligations and responsibilities. To help you in your role as executor, consider contacting a skilled probate attorney for assistance.

With sibling fights over items not specifically named in the will, the executor has additional responsibilities. Their obligation, first and foremost, is to the decedent.

Preservation of assets

The executor is tasked with preserving the assets of the estate. This means that he or she cannot allow the assets to deteriorate or go to waste. This includes items that might not be listed in the will at the time of the individual's death.

The executor can face legal ramifications if the assets are not preserved. For example, if an item is stolen or destroyed, the heirs ca hold the executor personally liable for the value of such item.

Removal of contested items

The executor is allowed to remove contested items from a property for safekeeping. However, the executor cannot remove items for their own benefit.

Removal is the right step to take when siblings are fighting over an item in the decedent's home. The executor needs to ensure the safety of all items and may remove an item from the property if the executor believes one sibling might take or destroy the contested item.

Accounting of items

Part of the role of the executor is to ensure all items in the estate are properly distributed. To do that, the executor must keep an accounting record. This is a formal document that can be viewed by others, including the heirs. It's important that the executor keep an accurate and detailed accounting of all items so the estate is properly valued.

While the executor need not account for small household items, any larger and valuable items must be part of the record. This includes items not specifically named in the will, as well as those assets that the executor has removed from the property for safekeeping.

Distribution of contested items

The executor may remove a contested item from the decedent's property for preservation purposes. But the executor must still determine how to distribute the item.

Emotions are high when losing a loved one. That is why it's important that the executor remain calm and make a reasonable determination regarding the contested item. If the siblings cannot agree on who should receive it, the executor is well within their rights to sell the item and split the proceeds equally among the siblings.

While this might not be an outcome the siblings will like, it will be one that is fair and equitable under the executor's duties.

If you're an executor struggling with decisions about contested items or how to distribute items not specifically named in the will, consider seeking professional guidance to help you reach solutions that are fair.

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