Determining the proper "seller" of real property in a decedent's estate can be challenging.
A Legal Moment

Selling a Decedent's Real Estate:  Who is the Seller?

Identifying the proper "seller" on real estate sales documents can be challenging when the property belongs to someone who recently died.

   When handling the sale of real estate, identifying the seller is generally a simple matter.  If the real estate belonged to a decedent, however, this determination of “Who is the Seller?” is not so easy, and completing “Seller” blanks on sales forms can become a challenge.
   When a person dies leaving a valid Will, the terms of the Will provide direction as to the identity of the seller. The Will may devise the real property to an individual or individuals, to an organization or other entity, to a trustee, or to the executor/estate. The “Seller,” then, would be the devisee(s). If anyone other than the executor/estate is the seller, and if the sale occurs within two years of the date of death of the decedent, the executor must join in the sale (unless the estate is closed and the executor discharged by the Clerk of Court) – but neither the executor nor the estate is the “Seller.”
   When a person dies without a valid Will, he or she is said to have died “intestate,” and an “administrator” (instead of an executor) is appointed by the Clerk to collect and distribute the decedent’s assets and settle the decedent’s debts. Real property of an intestate decedent vests immediately in the decedent’s heirs, who are determined under the North Carolina intestacy statutes. In almost all intestate estates the seller will be an individual or individuals. If there are numerous individuals, they may arrange to give someone power of attorney to act on their behalf. The administrator must always join in the sale if the sale occurs within two years of the date of death of the decedent.
   There is a notable exception to the above guidelines: the ownership rights of devisees’ (under a Will) or heirs’ (under intestacy statutes) are subject to claims against the decedent’s estate, and North Carolina statutes permit the executor or administrator to pull the real property into the estate to satisfy such claims. The executor or administrator accomplishes this by filing a petition to sell the property, and prevailing in the required hearing. In that case, the executor or administrator is the “Seller.”
   So, to determine whose name to enter in “Seller” blanks, you will need to know the identity of the devisee(s) or heir(s), and whether the Clerk has issued an order allowing the executor or administrator to sell the property. If the decedent’s estate is represented by legal counsel, the attorney should be able to provide quick guidance.
   Gay Vinson is an associate attorney at Marshall, Roth & Gregory, PC.  Her practice is concentrated in trust and estate planning and administration.
   Feel free to contact Gay (gvinson@ to receive more information on this topic or to suggest topics for future editions of 'A Legal Moment'.  Or visit our firm's website at:

   You may not rely on this content as legal advice for any specific situation, but should instead contact an attorney for specific advice
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