How much leeway does an executor have when it comes to selling the personal property of an estate?

Tennessee law generally gives executors carte blanche:

Unless otherwise directed by the will and unless the specific personal property is the subject of a bequest, the personal representative of a testate or intestate estate may, in the personal representative’s discretion, sell the personal property of the decedent at public or private sale, for cash or on terms, in such manner and for such prices as the personal representative may deem advisable;

Moreover, the executor may employ persons or firms to conduct the sale and shall receive credit for all reasonable expenses of the sale in the final accounting.There is, however, one significant exception. The executor is prohibited from making a private sale to

  • the executor,
  • business associates,
  • members of the personal representative’s immediate family, or
  • their agents

without court approval or the written consent of all residuary distributees of the estate. A public sale in which such persons participate appears to be permissible, although not necessarily advisable.

Note that these rules only apply to personal property; i.e., property other than real estate. Real estate is covered by a different set of rules.

Source: T.C.A. § 30-2-303

Posted by Joel D. Roettger, JD, LLM, EPLS