The executor of a will is responsible for settling the decedent’s financial affairs and distributing the assets, among other duties. Disagreements may arise if the beneficiaries do not agree with the decisions of the executor. In some situations, the dispute is litigated in probate court, where a judge can order the appropriate action, as illustrated in a March 22, 2018 Tennessee estate case.
In the case, a deceased father had bequeathed an annuity to each of his two daughters in his will, with the residual of the estate to be transferred in a trust, of which the income would be paid to his wife. However, according to the final settlement submitted by the executors of his estate, the net amount to be distributed from the probate estate was approximately $8,700. Since that amount was not enough to purchase and fund the beneficiaries’ $75,000 and $50,000 annuities, the executors sought to divide only the $8,700 between them. The beneficiaries filed an objection, requesting the court to order the sale of a portion of the decedent’s real property, which was valued at over $3 million, in an amount sufficient to fund their annuities. The probate court agreed, and the executors appealed the matter.
In Tennessee, when a testator bequests property to beneficiaries, known as legacies, without indicating the source from which they are to be paid, and then disposes of the rest of the estate in a mass residuary clause, the legacies are considered a charge on the residuary. An executor may utilize a decedent’s real property if the personal property is insufficient to pay for the decedent’s obligations. Furthermore, the probate court has jurisdiction to sell a decedent’s real property.