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Estate litigation from improper handling of rental property

The executor of an estate must respect the wishes of the deceased without violating the rights of any heirs, creditors and others who may have a legal interest. Failing to protect those rights could lead to estate litigation that could be costly and time-consuming. Nevertheless, some liabilities or assets in an estate may complicate the job for an executor. For example, if the deceased owned rental properties, the executor must consider the rights of the tenants.

British Columbia laws favour tenants over landlords, so executors must be careful when acting on the directives of an estate plan or the wishes of the beneficiaries. For example, during probate the executor may have the responsibilities that the deceased shouldered as the landlord. This may include maintaining the property, dealing with tenant complaints, paying bills and collecting rent. The executor may want to delegate some of these responsibilities by hiring a property manager, but the heirs or the court may have to approve this expense.

If the heirs ask the executor to sell the property, the tenants have a right to fair warning, especially if it means they will be evicted. Additionally, any repairs or renovations the executor may plan to improve the property for sale should disrupt the tenants' peaceful living as little as possible. It is a good idea for an estate executor to locate and carefully read the tenant agreement for any rental properties in the estate.

An executor may be fortunate to deal with beneficiaries who are willing to receive the rental property as is. This may reduce the chances that the executor will end up facing estate litigation resulting from disputes among the tenants and beneficiaries. However, if such disputes arise, having an experienced British Columbia legal advocate can provide a valuable resource.

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