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On-site Estate Sale Slip. Liable?

On-site Estate Sale Slip. Liable?

Estate Liability| 8-minute read
Estate Sale Slip | The Estate Sale Company Liability | Estate Liability Insurance

Life is full of “what ifs.” This is also true in estate administration.  For example, you might “What if”… “What if I hadn’t told Mom, ‘Sure, I’ll be the executor’.”  What if indeed!

But now you are and you have an estate sale planned, and it’s taking place in “The House”, formerly, “Mom’s House”, “Dad’s House”, “Our House”, etc.  Currently, it’s the estate’s house. As the executor and therefore the legal fiduciary, you have to ask, “What if… someone trips on an “X” and falls?”

This is not a common occurrence, fortunately.” cites ASEL (The American Society of Estate Liquidators) Director, Julie Hall, “People often quickly admit that they did not read the signs or they weren’t watching their steps. Still, the estate sale company can do a great deal to minimize liabilities.

Discuss the Potential Liability

First, have a conversation with the estate sale company.  Ideally, you have had this conversation before engagement, in case you don’t like their answers, but a conversation needs to take place.  i.e.

  • Will you, the estate sale company, walk the property and point out and potential hazards before the sale opens to the public?
  • Will you, the estate sale company, provide signage to alert visitors of any: “step-up” or “step-down” locations, off-limits areas, tripping hazards, or hazards of any nature?
  • During the event will the estate sale company monitor the crowd and monitor pathways?
  • Require a certificate of insurance from the estate sale company.  One benefit of this request is that professional estate sales companies will produce this proof and limits of their liability coverage without hesitation.  If they do not, hmmmm….
  • What does the estate sale contract say?  It may state that you the client are required to hold liability insurance as well.

And the Estate Liability?Estate Liability

First, understand that every accident on the estate property, during an estate sale, is not the fault of the estate sale company.  A good professional company will seek to limit liability.  As a fiduciary, you should too.  Checking an estate sale company’s liability agreements and checking their coverage is due diligence on your part, but what about the estate?

We reached out to The Insurance Information Institute, “Recognized by the media, governments, regulatory organizations, universities, and the public as a primary source of information, analysis, and referral concerning insurance”.  As to the question of liability to the estate for injury sustained while on estate property, including estate sales, they responded, “As far as the homeowners insurance goes, as long as the decedent had homeowners insurance that was up to date, which typically includes liability insurance, there should be some protection for the estate as their homeowner’s insurance policy is still in effect.  Of course, it can lapse if no one made a payment.”

Therefore…the executor must connect with the insurer to ascertain the status of the homeowner policy.

Therefore, if the estate plans on holding a public event on the property, the executor must connect with the insurer of the decedent and ascertain the status of the homeowner’s policy.  Keep in mind every insurer and every state is different.  At that time, take the opportunity to review the following…

  • Is the homeowners policy the only policy in effect for the insured?  Is there an umbrella policy? (this would provide additional coverage)
  • Does the policy (or policies) include liability coverage that may…
    • Help pay for medical bills, if the estate is found responsible?
    • Cover the injured’s wages if the estate is found legally liable for an injury that results in their inability to return to work?
    • Help pay for the cost of a settlement?
      For example, if the estate is found responsible for any pain and suffering endured by a person who is injured at the estate sale? (or other visitors to the property for that matter.)
  • Does the insurance policy cover death benefits to the family of someone who passes away as the result of an accident at the estate sale or on the property?
  • Does the insurance policy or policies help cover legal expenses, regardless of whether the estate is found responsible for damages?

Sometimes what a company will do is keep it in the deceased’s name until the property is sold, or they may have a policy written in the name of the executor.” per Loretta L. Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute.

Therefore, it is imperative that, as executor, you reach out to the insurer to see where you stand.  As executor and fiduciary this is the part of the job and may help prevent the estate from paying those costs out of pocket.

It is imperative that, as executor, you reach out to the insurer to see where you stand.

 

 

Disclaimer

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The information referenced may not be the most recent version.  Please consult with an attorney.  Executors are strongly encouraged to confirm all information with their estate attorney…

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