On December 12, 2022, in In re Estate of Zych, the court of appeals held that the “personal representative of an estate may not sell real property that the testator has specifically devised by will.” Stanley Zych left his farmland to four sons, certificates of deposit to three daughters, and the remainder of his property was left to all seven children. Prior to his death, several of his assets were mismanaged for over a decade by three of his children. As a result of the mismanagement, the district court found that the three children owed significant sums to the estate, totaling roughly $3 million. The district court ordered the sale of the home farm that had been specifically left to two of the children to deal with the debts. However, the court of appeals held that specific provisions in the probate code requiring the transfer of specific gifts to a beneficiary overrode the general authority granted for administration of the estate. At best, the court explained, the probate code may “authorize no more than the imposition of a lien” on property specifically devised to an heir – but a forced sale was not authorized.
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