The Executors Corner: What You Need to Sell That Apartment

One has to think that the old adage “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” was designed specifically for the executor whose job it is to gather up and distribute the assets of the decedent while paying off any claims and juggling the bent out-of-shape beneficiaries who feel that they somehow and someway have been shortchanged.

Among the executor’s more vexing challenges can be the sale of a co-operative or condominium apartment.  In that situation, the buyer’s lawyer and title company will want to be very sure that the executor has the ability to make the sale free of any liens or claims.  For a co-op, the managing agent will also get into the act and demand his pound of flesh.  In order to complete the sale, the executor must usually provide the following:

1) Letters Testamentary:  or, if there was no will, then Letters of Administration:  These are the most crucial documents as they establish that the executor has been appointed by the Court and has the power to transfer the property.  No sane buyer would go forward without this;

2) Death Certificate:  This should be self explanatory although one has to wonder how an executor could get the necessary letters without a death certificate.  I guess this is just like wearing a belt and suspenders.

3) The Will:   A copy certified by the Court or the executor’s attorney should suffice.  Even the moderately careful lawyer will want to be sure that the will doesn’t say something like “I give my apartment to the my bird “Tweety”;

4) Affidavit of Debts and Domicile: In its most basic terms this simply sets forth where the decedent lived when he died so that any out of state liens or taxes can be dealt with and confirms that the decedent’s bills have been paid;

5) Title Company Affidavit:  This will be required in sales of condos and, if the buyer is getting leasehold title insurance, for co-ops.  This is effectively a more complex affidavit of debts and domicile but can be problematic for the executor who only  met the decedent once about 10 years ago;

6) Releases of Tax Liens: These may be required on both the state and federal levels.  Although the releases should be simple to obtain they can take a bit of time so they should be dealt with as soon as possible; and

7) An Affidavit of Heirship:  This is sometimes required in situations where there is no will and sets forth the relatives, (both living and deceased) of the decedent.

Even more challenged is the executor who is directed by the will to transfer the apartment to a particular heir.  In that case, the co-op or condominium documents must be carefully reviewed to determine if there are any restrictions on these types of transfers and what hoops have to be jumped through (i.e. think board packages) to complete the deal.

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