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How many beneficiaries are there to the estate? What types of assets remain in the estate if there is no readily available cash? Does the estate have an executor? Is the estate being handled through probate?
There is no particular order in which the assets of an estate can or cannot be sold, unless such terms are specifically outlined in the will of the decedent. Generally it is up to the executor or personal representative of the decedent to make these types of decisions, keeping in mind the best interests of the beneficiaries.
Typically, where decisions need to be made on the sale of assets in order to pay expenses of the estate, although the executor has the ultimate responsibility for this decision, he would normally consult with the heirs on their preferences of which assets were sold first, particularly if only one or two heirs are named as beneficaries. If the beneficiaries cannot agree amongst themselves on the assets to be sold, then ultimately the executor or personal representative would be responsible for making the decision.
If the estate is going through probate, then the probate court may also have to approve any proposed plan for sale of assets if real estate is involved.
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Hello again lilla,
Many times, if a spouse or family member is the one acting as executor of an estate, they will waive their right to an executor's fee, simply because it is their personal choice not to charge for their services. However, legally the wife is entitled to charge an executor's fee if she chooses to do so. All other expenses for the funeral and attorney fees and any other expenses in connection with settling the estate should be paid using the estate assets. They are not the personal responsibility of the wife, just as they are not the personal responsibility of any of the other beneficiaries.
If there is a Merrill Lynch account with $300,000 that was to be divided equally between the wife and the two daughters, then it would be most practical to use the proceeds from that account to pay off the debts owed by the estate. Whatever remains in that account after expenses can then still be divided equally among the 3 beneficiaries, and each beneficiary will have equally paid their share of the estate expenses. You indicated in your original post that there were attorney fees to be paid. If you also have an attorney involved in the settlement of this estate, you should also seek his guidance on this issue, particularly if you are already paying him a fee to assist with the estate settlement.
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