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My niece’s offer to buy my late mother’s house is being blocked by my sister. What should we do?

Property Clinic: Nobody was that interested in the house until the executor’s daughter decided that she wanted it

I wonder if you could help with a problem. My mother died about 12 years ago and her will stated that we sell the house and divide the proceeds. The will was eventually sorted out a few months ago and, in the meantime, the executor’s daughter has decided to buy the house. She has been saving for it and has been able to borrow €180,000 for same.

One of my sisters had an interest in renovating it four or five years ago but there was no interest from my other siblings. Then last week, one of my other sisters called to say she had phoned the solicitor who had sorted the will and requested that he put the house on the market for €100,000. I have no idea why she would have done this. My question is what effect will this have on my niece buying the house.

Unfortunately, the query as presented raises a number of questions that need to be answered. These are:

  • Who is the executor of your mother’s will?
  • Is the sister who “phoned the solicitor” and requested that they put the house on the market one of the executors of the will?
  • What does “the will was eventually sorted out” mean? Was your mother’s estate administered and her assets distributed?
  • Is the house still registered in the name of your mother and as such, part of her estate? If so, then your mother’s estate may not have been fully administered or “sorted out”.

An executor is a person who is appointed under the terms of a will to administer an estate of a person who has died and as such is the party who should give the instructions to the solicitor to sell the house.

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The personal representative of a deceased person, in your case the executor of your mother’s will, has legal responsibilities for administering and distributing the property and estate.

Whilst it is not absolutely essential for a personal representative to seek the views of the beneficiaries in a will, it is generally prudent and reasonable to do so, before distributing or selling any assets of an estate.

All the beneficiaries of an estate are entitled to receive an administration or distribution statement of account from the personal representative, particularly if their inheritance is likely to be affected by any actions taken by the personal representative.

Finally, your niece is entitled to buy the house at such price as may be agreed by the personal representative with her, provided none of the beneficiaries have their inheritance right affected by the sale. The house should be sold for the open-market price, unless there is an agreement between the personal representative and all beneficiaries to sell for a lower value.

You should go back to the solicitor dealing with the estate of your late mother and ask for clarification on what is now proposed to deal with the estate, particularly the house, of your late mother.

Amy Collins is a solicitor with P. O’Connor & Son, www.poconsol.ie

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