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Personal Representative & Access to Real Estate Property

I apologize in advance if this is not the proper forum for my question. My mother passed away intestate in Jan. 2014. Her only heirs are myself, an older sister and brother. She owned a multifamily home. My estranged sister occupies the 1st floor of the home. The other two floors are unoccupied. In March 2017, I petitioned the court to become personal representative of her estate. My brother assented to the PR appointment. My sister never responded to any communication including the proper forms to assent, published legal notices. I was advised by an attorney that in my role as PR I am able to legally sell the property and distribute proceeds among the heirs. However, at this point, the attorney has asked mys sister for the keys to the property. She refuses to provide them to me. However, she wrote a letter to the attorney that stated that because she lives on the property and her personal belongs are there, she does not want anyone to have access to the property unless she is present. My primary concern is that as personal representative of the estate, I am responsible for the property, yet, I have no access to it. At first, the attorney told me that I could just go ahead and hire a locksmith to change all the locks. Now, after a second request for keys to the property, he states something about going to court to get an order for her to give me the keys. Then, he advises me to hire a real estate agent to contact her to see if she will allow him access to take photos, preparation to place the house on the market. Honestly I am quite perplexed on how to legally proceed at this point. Thanks for any guidance/general information yo might be able to provide to me.

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Submitted Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:11

Unfortunately, it's quite common that relatives who are living with decedents refuse to leave when the estate is being dealt with. Your aunt's exact rights will be partially determined by whether or not she is contributing to any bills at the property or not. She most likely has rights as a "tenant" and needs to be evicted from the property. If she has acquired a tenancy, absent a written rental agreement that allows you to enter the property, any entry without her permission could be a violation that would subject the estate to possible damages. Similarly, even if you were to sell the property, she wouldn't have to leave, which would make it almost impossible to sell it while she is still there.

You will need to move forward by filing an eviction against her with the court. I would be happy to discuss the process and how we might be able to assist. Feel free to contact me to go over some more facts and discuss the proper way to get her out without potentially exposing yourself, or the estate, to damages.

Atty. David Owens
Grolman LLP

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