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My sister has been living either off my dad or with my dad her entire life. My father passed away in November 2018 with no will. My sister, who is the personal representative, has continued to live in his house while not paying rent nor utilities for the last 19 months. She has also been collecting rent from two renters who live in the downstairs complex. The only proof I have of her collecting rent is my eye witness account and some messages I have had with the renters as she is not claiming this money. She is now trying to buy us out of the house for a steal.

My brother and I had to hire our own lawyer to help protect our share of the estate. He did inform me that she needs to pay rent, but said that the estate has to pay for her utilities as well as maintenance, summer and winter taxes and house insurance.

Is the estate really responsible for paying the utilities for the last 19 months? My brother and I have been wanting to sell the house but our sister has been dragging her feet and getting a free ride. Is there anything we can do?

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Until the estate is settled and the interest in the house is definitively resolved, the estate has to pay property taxes. There is no requirement for the house to be insured, unless there is a mortgage and insurance is mandated by the lender. The duties of the personal representative generally include taking reasonable steps to protect the assets of the estate, which would include reasonable insurance coverage -- which the estate would pay for. Necessary maintenance would also be included in the things that are to covered by the estate, for example the cost of repairing a broken water pipe (which can cause serious loss, if not repaired). Freshening up the paint in preparation for selling the house, assuming that the house is to be sold and the assets divided, would also be covered by the estate. Utilities, on the other hand, are not within the realm of things that need to be done to protect the interests of the beneficiaries: that is a benefit to whoever lives there, making it their responsibility.

The question is foot-dragging is a separate issue, one that should be resolved with the aid of your lawyer. I do not understand why he would maintain that the estate is responsible for paying the utilities.

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  • Thank you. That is very interesting to know, especially as my lawyer assured me that the estate would have to cover utilities. – Blair Jun 25 '20 at 8:00

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