A Challenging Time
When a Loved One passes away, it can be a very challenging time for the family. During this time, details can be easily overlooked, and money can be lost. In fact, this is often one of the most important times for managing the estate.
A Minnesota Family
Let me tell you about a Minnesota family living in Plymouth. A couple we will call Bob and Karen own a home near Medicine Lake. Karen's 75 year old mother, Darla, lives in an apartment just a few miles away. Darla has lived in the apartment for the past 16 years and has enjoyed the freedom of having her own place.
On February 5th, Darla passed away unexpectedly from a stroke. Shortly after funeral, the family came and packed up her belongings, cleaned the apartment, and notified the property manager to conduct a walk-through of the unit. Karen met with her sister and it was decided that Karen would be the Executor on the estate.
Shortly after March 1st, Karen noticed that a $1,200 monthly rental charge had been taken out of Darla's old checking account, by the property management company. Karen called the office and was told that the lease stated that even if the tenant passed away, they would need to give a 60 day notice. Karen was also told that a $1,200 rental charge would be taken out on April 1st as well.
Because Darla has passed away, is the estate obligated to pay the monthly rental charges?
Can The Landlord Collect The Money Legally?
Since the landlord clearly knew the tenant (Darla) had passed away, the charge against the account should not have been made. Unfortunately the account should have been flagged at the bank by Karen so that the landlord could not do what they did. The lease claim is at most a creditor claim against the estate. Expenses of the funeral, costs of probate administration, and several other things all get paid before the $1,200 can be considered. If the estate assets are limited, the landlord claim may not even be paid at all.
Thankfully all is not lost in Karen's situation.
She should talk to an experienced probate attorney at once to address this issue. The attorney should demand that the $1,200 be returned to the estate immediately. If the landlord does not refund the $1,200, they could be liable for a double penalty under the probate code or $2,400. Unfortunately, some landlords take advantage of a bereaved family at a time like this, when the landlord should know better.
Bill Peterson is a Minnesota Probate Attorney with over 40 years of experience as a lawyer. His firm, Peterson Law Office, is pleased to help sort out the intricacies of Minnesota Probate. For more information, please visit http://www.mnprobate.com or call toll free at 952-641-7312.
The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.