TRUSTS AND ESTATES
Removal of Executor • Mismanagement and Waste • Posting Security
In re Mutchler, PICS Case No. 14-0258 (C.P. Monroe Jan. 7, 2014) Williamson, J. (10 pages).
Heirs to the estate of Star Mutchler petitioned the court to remove the executor, alleging that he mismanaged the estate, did not reside in Pennsylvania, did not furnish security and did not properly distribute personal property of the decedent. Petition denied.
Some of the heirs challenged the distribution of some pieces of jewelry and a family bible and charged that some items were distributed to non-family members. There was no mismanagement or waste in these actions. Any items given to the executor’s daughter were of negligible value and the heirs could raise other issue in objections to any account filed.
The heirs also challenged the state of the house and its upkeep. The executor credibly testified that there was no water shut-off and that the water and electricity bills were paid. The house was an older home in rough condition, compared to others on the market. The executor’s time available to keep the house and grounds in pristine condition was limited. Having the house in pristine condition might have added some value to the house. Additionally, none of the heirs offered to clean or repair the house to improve its value. The executor was not derelict in his duties based on the condition of the home.
The executor obtained a drive-by appraisal at $31,000, a full appraisal at $55,000 and the petitioners obtained an appraisal of $70,000. The executor determined that a sale by auction was the best course of action and, after discussion with the petitioners, a minimum reserve bid of $60,000 was agreed. However, when the real estate appraiser presented a cash buyer at that price after the auction was cancelled, the petitioners refused to agree to a sale. While an auction does not always realize the highest possible price, it is an ordinary action in these circumstances and types of real estate. Since the petitioners previously agreed to a $60,000 reserve, the matter should have proceeded to auction with a reserve price of $60,000. Additionally, the delay in obtaining an appraisal and listing the property for auction was not out of the ordinary in an estate, especially so where there are seven heirs.
The executor provided credible testimony that he is a Pennsylvania resident. While he was employed as an over the road truck driver by a company based in North Dakota, he previously worked as police officer in Monroe County, Pennsylvania until retiring and owned a home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in which he resided on his days off and which he considered his permanent residence. He had a mailbox in North Dakota and did register a vehicle there because he did not have time to register it in Pennsylvania while working. These facts supported the fact that the executor was a resident of Pennsylvania and there was no need for him to furnish security.