Selling Real Property to Satisfy the Debts of a Decedent

Newsletter | Apr 17, 2017 | Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

In Virginia, real property vests with the heirs of an estate unless the heirs are divested of legal title. As a result, it is settled law that unless a personal representative of the estate is granted an express power to sell the real estate of the decedent by Will, the personal representative must seek such authority from the Court. The Court will usually reserve granting such authority for good cause and is primarily granted when the assets of the estate exceed that value of the debts of a decedent

The personal representative of an estate (could be termed an Administrator or Executor) has a fiduciary duty to fully administer the estate of the decedent. In doing so, the personal representative must ensure that the debts of the estate are paid. When an estate is insolvent, there is a particular order in which such debts may be paid. A failure to pay the debts in the order prescribed by the Virginia Code could result in the personal representative being held personally liable for the debt

Specifically, when the assets of the estate are not sufficient to satisfy all the debts, the debts are to paid as follows:

  1. Costs and expenses of administration;
  2. Allowances afforded to a surviving spouse or dependent child under the Code of Virginia;
  3. Funeral expenses not to exceed $4,000;
  4. Debts and taxes with preference under federal law;
  5. Medical and hospital expenses of the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending him not to exceed $2,150 for each hospital and nursing home and $425 for each person furnishing services or goods;
  6. Debts and taxes due the Commonwealth;
  7. Debts due as trustee for persons under disabilities; as receiver or commissioner under decree of court of the Commonwealth; as personal representative, guardian, conservator, or committee when the qualification was in the Commonwealth; and for moneys collected by anyone to the credit of another and not paid over, regardless of whether or not a bond has been executed for the faithful performance of the duties of the party so collecting such funds;
  8. Debts and taxes due localities and municipal corporations of the Commonwealth; and
  9. All other claims.

Only after the debts are fully satisfied are beneficiaries of the estate entitled to benefit from the estate.

Since the problem usually arises with a decadent who owned real property that has vested with a beneficiary and there is just not a sufficient personal estate to satisfy the creditors, the Code of Virginia specifically provides that real property must sold when the personal property is insufficient to do so.

To enable a personal representative with the authority to engage in the sale of real estate, the personal representative, unless there is an express direction of sale under a Last Will and Testament, will often need the cooperation of the heirs and/or the granting of the power to sell the property. The Court, in granting such authority, divests the heirs of legal title and grants full authority over the property to the personal representative.

Ask Kit Kat – Affectionate Cats

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, are cats naturally affectionate, or do they tend to be aloof?

Kit Kat:  Well, according to some new research, cats really are naturally affectionate. Here’s what the latest research says. We have Oregon State University (OSU) to thank. In OSU’s own publication, Behavioral Processes, it was reported that cats frequently choose love from their parents over food. Dogs and tortoises were previously studied, so the researchers decided it was time to focus on cats. One researcher said, ‘Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem-solving abilities. Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.’

In the study, a total of 50 cats (some from shelters, some were pets) were examined. They isolated the cats for a few hours from all stimulation such as human interaction, playing with toys, or being given food. After the deprivation period, the cats were given the option of interacting with humans, playing with toys, or eating. Only 37% of the cats chose food. Most of those opting for contact were quite content with chin rubbing. To top it off, they found no difference between the shelter cats and pet cats. These results confirm what my parents have long known. The 5 cats in our house love our parents, and miss them terribly when they go away. Someone comes in and feeds us and clean our litter while they are away, but it’s not the same. Even if they are gone one night, when they come back, we cuddle up to them with purring, and they, in turn, pet us to our hearts’ content! (Kelli Bender, “Study: Your Cat Probably Loves You More Than It Loves Food (Take that, Dogs!), People, March 28, 2017)

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