Can an Executor Sell a Property Without all Beneficiaries Approving?

Nadia Rimmer
Author:
Nadia Rimmer
Solicitor, Advocate
Date:
20/05/2021

Yes. In England or Wales an Executor can sell a property without beneficiaries approving, but they still have a duty to act in the best interests of beneficiaries.

In cases where there is more than one Executor, Executors will have to reach an agreement about selling the property. But what happens to a property after someone dies all depends on how the property was owned and whether or not they left a Will.

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Joint Tenants

If the person who died jointly owned their property, and the other joint tenant is still alive, then the property will automatically pass onto them through Right of Survivorship.  

If the property was owned in the sole name of the person who died, then it’ll pass on to whoever was specified in the Will if they left one, or will be decided by inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy.

What Happens if There’s No Will?

Executors will have the final say over what happens to a property if the person who died didn’t leave behind a Will. But they still need to consider the best interests of beneficiaries and not let their personal opinions get in the way of this.

This includes checking whether any beneficiaries are interested in the property, and selling the property for a reasonable price.

If There is a Will

Usually people will specify in their Will what they want to happen to their property when they die. They might choose to leave it to one beneficiary or share it between a few of them. They might even decide to leave a share of their property in a Trust until a set date, for example, when a beneficiary turns a certain age. 

In all of these cases, the Executor must follow the specific instructions for a property as set out in the Will.

But sometimes a person can leave behind a Will without specifying what they want to happen to their property. If this is the case, then the Executors will decide what to do with it. Again, they’ll need to do what’s best for beneficiaries. They might decide to transfer the property to a beneficiary if they’ve expressed interest, or sell the property and distribute the funds to the beneficiaries.

Disagreements between Executors and Beneficiaries

Unfortunately, conflict between Executors and beneficiaries can happen, especially if there are many of them involved. For example, they might disagree on the sale price of the property. While the Executor will make the final decision on this, they still have a duty to sell the house for market value. If it’s sold for less, then Beneficiaries have the right to challenge this.

If beneficiaries believe an Executor is acting improperly, they can apply to get them removed as Executor of the Will. But you should only consider legal intervention after trying to resolve the conflict between yourselves first. It’s a good idea to write your concerns to the Executor in a letter, asking them to let you take over the Estate administration.

If the Executor continues to act improperly after this, then you might decide to formally apply to get them removed by the Court.

The Court will usually agree to remove the Executor if they’ve done any of the following:

  • They’re incapable of carrying out their duties e.g. they have a disability which prevents them from doing what is required of them
  • They’re unsuitable for the role
  • They’ve become ineligible for the role since they were appointed e.g. been convicted of a crime

Being unsuitable for the role usually covers an Executor acting improperly, such as:

  • Mismanaging or stealing from the Estate
  • Not complying with a Court order
  • Failing to act in the best interests of Beneficiaries
  • Failing to keep Estate accounts accurate

If the Court agrees that the Executor should be removed, they can choose to appoint a professional Executor to manage the Estate instead.

Help from a Probate Solicitor

Whether you’re a beneficiary who’d like legal advice about dealing with a difficult Executor, or you’re an Executor and you’d like help with the administration of an Estate, we can help you.

We offer a range of Probate services that can be tailored to suit your individual needs. Get in touch with our Probate Solicitors today to see how we can help you.

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