Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Washington

Can an Executor of an Estate buy an item of personal property from the Estate for himself or for a non-heir, without offering the opportunity to other heirs to buy the item?

Asked on 5/04/13, 8:32 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Charles Cruikshank Cruikshank Law Office-Since 1975

Only if it is done with all of the proper safeguards first in place.

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Answered on 5/05/13, 3:58 am

Gary Preble Preble Law Firm, P.S.

This is something I would have to research to give a more definite answer. However, my initial response is that notice to the beneficiaries of the will would be by far the best practice--if not the legal requirement-- in this situation.

The personal representative has a fiduciary obligation to the estate. All must be done for the benefit of the estate. That would in my mind include more than just the bottom line value of the estate that is delivered to the beneficiaries. Thus, fair market value would be a given. However, the value of personal property to the beneficiaries is often more than pecuniary, but it includes sentimental value as well. While you may sell the couch at an estate sale for a sum of money and that is fine with the beneficiaries, the value of grandma's wedding ring goes beyond the mere dollar value.

I would therefore say that the emotional value that attaches to some items of personal property is an asset/value of the estate to which your prior access would constitute a violation of your oath of personal representative. If any of the rightful beneficiaries wants a particular item, can a personal representative be working for the benefit of the estate if he asserts a prior right to acquire that item? The reasonable answer is most certainly no.

By giving notice (or asking the beneficiaries) of your interest in the item, you may well find no interest in the specific item. If so get written approval from the beneficiaries. But if someone wants it, it likely won't be yours. After all, don't you have the family look over the personal property before the estate sale anyway? Would it be proper to sell everything without first giving the beneficiaries the opportunity to get what they particularly wanted. Your idea would just be allowing you to have a private estate sale before the beneficiaries had an opportunity.

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Answered on 5/05/13, 8:14 pm

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