Master Recommends Approval of Executor’s Petition Seeking Real Property Be Sold After Decedent’s Death and Rejects Objection to That Sale

Delaware Fiduciary Litigation Blog

Posted May 5, 2023

IMO The Estate of Willie J. Snow, C.A. No. 2022-0106-SEM (April 26, 2023)

     In this case, Master in Chancery Molina dealt with a petition to sell real property to pay debts of an estate.  Although the Petitioner had met the statutory requirements for a sale, an “Interested Party” contested the sale on the grounds that she lived on the property since the decedent’s death and paid various related expenses.  The Master concluded that, based on the record before her, the petition should be granted.

      Section 2707 of Title 12 of the Delaware Code requires an interested party demonstrate that they contributed their “proportionable part towards payment of the outstanding debts[.]” The Master explained that case law addressing Section 2707 is sparse, but one previous case did find that Section 2707, coupled with notions of equity, supported the conclusion that parties with an equitable ownership interest in property are entitled “to prohibit the sale of the property to another upon the contribution by them to the administrator of sufficient funds to discharge the debts of the estate.” (quoting Estate of Speare).  But here, the Master found that the Interested Party failed to demonstrate proportional payment.

     Turning to 12 Del. C. § 2717, the Master explained that the court may refuse an order for sale of real estate, “if under the circumstances it is considered improper that such sale should be made, although it should sufficiently appear that the personal estate is not sufficient for the payment of the debts, or that the sale was regularly conducted.” 12 Del. C. § 2717. But the Master recommended finding that in the present case the Interested Party did not identify such circumstances.

     In conclusion, the Master stated that “[t]here is nothing in the record before me that demonstrates granting the Petition would be improper or inequitable.”  The Master went on to note that while the Interested Party “may have covered the expenses of the real property at issue without contribution from her co-owners (or conversely, lived in the Property rent free)”, that is an issue that may be resolved between the various co-owners.  The Master concluded that the just-described possibly outstanding issue was not a sufficient basis to deny the Petition and, consequently, leave the debts of the Decedent’s estate unpaid.  The Master also wrote that, “[l]ikewise, although estate administration has been slow moving, there has been no argument that the delay amounts to laches or otherwise cuts against the estate’s compelling need to sell the Property to pay the Decedent’s debts.”


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.