We frequently assist clients whose parents or relatives recently died and our client was named as the Executor in the decedent’s Will.  The Executor now wants to sell the house and distribute the proceeds as per the Will and they want to know when can they legally sell the property.

The first step after someone dies is for the Executor named in the Will to open the Probate Estate with the County Surrogate Court.  This can be done by contacting an Estate Attorney and providing him/her with the original Will and Death Certificate.  In most cases the Death Certificate can be obtained from the funeral parlor shortly after the decedent’s death.  It is recommended that you request at least 10 certified copies, as it is better to have too many than not enough.  It can also be more difficult to obtain later on as well.  The Attorney must then submit these documents to the Surrogate’s office and obtain what are called Letters Testamentary. 

Letters Testamentary give the Executor the legal authority from the Court to handle the affairs of the Estate.  Once these documents are obtained the Executor has the legal authority to sign a listing agreement with a real estate agent, enter into a Contract of Sale and do whatever is necessary to sell the property.  It also gives the Executor the authority to communicate with banks and other third parties on behalf of the Estate.    

We sometimes receive a Contract of Sale for an Estate where they have already hired a realtor and signed a Contract but have not yet received the Letters Testamentary or even started the process. In that situation everything must stop and the Contract must be put on hold or cancelled if the Buyer does not want to wait, until the Executor receives the Letters Testamentary.  The process usually takes 1-2 months, however, it can sometimes take longer.  We can assist you in getting appointed as the Executor and Selling the property and distributing the Estate.  The sooner you start the process after the Decedent’s death the better and we are here to help.

The information in this blog posting is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this blog or associated pages, documents, comments, answers, emails, or other communications should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does n

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