What can a beneficiary expect of an executor

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tizi | 15:49 Mon 14th Dec 2009 | Civil
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Is it reasonable for a beneficiary to expect that an executor will dispose of the deceased's personal belongings at market value and, if it is, what efforts should the executor make to realise market value? There are 2 issues: Firstly, I am a beneficiary under a will and it appears that the executor undervalued items of personal property before selling them below that value to friends. Secondly, in circumstances where an executor has made no effort to sell remaining personal property is it reasonable for the executor to dispose of that property by giving it away?


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To another-view...please don't jump to question is NOT about money - its about what I, as a beneficiary, can expect of an executor. You don't know the background to my question and to make assumptions as you have done and then to pass comment is offensive.
Problem is 'market value' is a rather elastic concept. The executor does have a responsibility to do his best for the estate though.

As to unsold property - it CAN be reasonable for the executor to pay (from estate funds) for it to be taken away, so giving it away could be regarded as reasonable. Or did you want some of that property?

So t's difficult to tell if you have a case or not. If you do it's going to be difficult to make.
Written in bold letters in my mil's will was something along the lines of... Can use the money, assets and dispose of the estate as if it is their own ..blah de blah .... cannot be held liable for losses however incured.

It does also say how the estate is to be split.

Does this override what Zacmaster said or not?
No,cassa, those words don't absolve the executor from all liability.They're intended to stop beneficiaries from claiming for each and every loss regardless. For example, shares in publicly quoted companies are valued for probate at the price they were at the death and any inheritance tax is charged accordingly. Obviously the shares might go down in value before the executor gets probate and go down even further afterwards but it usually would be very harsh to hold the executor liable for not gettng probate instantly or not guessing which way they'd go afterwards, before realising them or if they're a specific bequest, transferring them to the beneficiary. The executor cannot get them revalued for tax purposes either. The tax is always claimed at the value at death, not what the shares are ultimately realised at.,

Otherwise the words could be used as an answer to any bad conduct in bad faith tantamount to, or being, fraudulent which causes loss to the estate or beneficiaries.
Question Author
Thank you Dzug for your answer. To concern is not that property might be given away but rather that it would be given away without any effort having been made to have sold it. If an executor has a legal responsibility to the beneficiaries it would seem to me that there must at least have been some effort to have sold the property before its given away - is this right? It also seems important to me that an executor who has already undervalued personal belongings and then gone on to sell those belongings to friends at below the [low] value that had been attached to them has acted against the interest of the beneficiaries and has breached their legal responsibilities - is this right?
Well that may be right - but how do you 'prove' it? Ie that he undervalued, made no effort to sell, etc. All that is a matter of opinion, not fact.

It's very easy for him to claim that he was having difficulty selling and that his friends were doing the estate a favour by taking the stuff off his hands.

Consider a solicitor in tha same position charging £150 an hour - would you exoect him to spend an hour selling something worth £100? And then repeat for other items? No - he'll call in a house clearance firm and pay them to take the stuff away. They'll put most of it in for recycling and sell a few choice items.

The sad fact is that most personal possessions aren't worth the effort of selling/are unsaleable.

If you can put a case together you can take it to court. You'll have to stump up court fees (£400 rings a bell but that may be a different context) and other legal costs up front and I wouldn't rate your chances of winning very high even if you are morally at least right about your suspicions.
If he's acted in good fsith he's done enough. No court is going to interfere. He may have thought a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and that a quick sale now is better for everybody than waiting around trying to get a better price off some dealer or run the risks of an auction. That the buyers are friends of his doesn't alter that. They pay promptly and can be trusted by him.
You don't say what these items are. My experience of thirty years as a private buyer of jewellery and antiques at auctiion is that ordinary people have an exaggerated idea of what market value is. For example, the normal price for jewellery at auction [Christies, Bonhams etc] is a third of the price the item would sell for in the shop down the road, often its much less than a third. And,in auction,you'll see wild differences in price fetched for identical articles in auctions days apart. Which is the 'market value'? And they confuse the value given by a valuer of antiques in their home with true value. He gives what is replacement price if it could be bought retail and he estimates that generously, as 'insurance value'.That's way above what it would sell to a collector or dealer for.

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