Losing a parent is hard. It hurts to let go of someone you love, but unfortunately this grief is often accompanied by a more sinister emotion: greed. Money brings out the worst in people, and quarrels over estates are something we see far too often. So how do you navigate that? What do you do if you and your siblings inherit a property and one of them refuses to sell?
We work with cases like these all the time, so we’re in a position to offer good advice on this subject. First of all, try to never get in this situation in the first place! I can’t think of a greater tragedy than fighting with your brother or sister right after the death of your parents. Take a deep breath and try to reach a resolution; life is too short to put money over family. But peace is not always an option.
In the best case scenario, a will is so thorough that there isn’t any conflict among the heirs. Parents usually will each of their children an equal share to their total inheritance. If the equity is liquid, then there’s nothing to fight over. But if part of that inheritance is the family home, it becomes more unclear. The best way to divide the home you inherit is to sell it and split the cash up among the heirs. But it’s almost never that easy. Emotions run high and everyone’s various interests often conflict. That’s why it never hurts to enlist a professional for help. The thing is, professional avenues in these situations are usually limited to legal counsel. But you want to try to avoid going to court if you can; who wants to sue their sibling? One service Big State offers is conflict resolution. It’s a big part of what we do to make sure these situations get resolved quickly and fairly. Take this story for example: Our agent Corey received a call from a guy who needed help. Let’s call him Allen. Corey tells it like this:
“Allen called me, and he wanted to sell his inherited house. He did not live at the house, but he did pay taxes on it. His sister, lets call her Kathy, lived in the home but she wasn’t paying taxes. Allen and Kathy’s brother, Richard, also wanted to sell the house. Allen called and he asked me to give him an offer on the house. He liked my offer, and so did Richard. They both presented it to their sister, but Kathy refused. She wanted more money. Truth be told, she was just stalling because she was accustomed to living in the house for free and she didn’t want to leave. So even though 2 of the 3 siblings wished to sell, the third holdout was able to stymie the entire process. Now, we could have taken it to court, but what I was able to do was convince the sister to take a higher amount. In other words, I convinced the two brothers to take a smaller cut so that the sister could receive more. She was happy with that arrangement, and it went through. So it all worked out. Was it a perfect solution? No, but it was a workable solution.”
You might be thinking to yourself “Well, there’s no way I’m going to let my rotten sibling get more money than me!” But ask yourself, do you really want to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars just to make sure your share of the estate is “fair”? Sure, you and your siblings will be equal alright. Equally broke! All you’ll inherit is a lot of time and money wasted at the courthouse. You should follow our formula, and seek to reach a working, if imperfect consensus. If a squeaky wheel gets a little more grease and your bratty sibling gets a little more money than you, just let it be. Take the high road.
But that aside, let’s say you’ve reached an impasse. You’ve completely exhausted all means at your disposal to come to a peaceful agreement with your sibling. What are your options then? Let’s say Kathy, the tenant from our story, had point blank refused to leave. This is pretty much a worst case scenario, but if this happens to you, you’re going to want to file for a partition. A partition is when the court divides up a concurrent estate into separate portions representing the proportionate interests of the heirs. This means the court forces the sale of the home and divides the assets. Sometimes the court will even auction off the house right at the courthouse, giving the parties involved even less money. Add on costly lawyer fees, and no one is going home happy. Please try to avoid this. A partition usually means the relationship is over. I mean, what’s the point of going to court if you’re going to accomplish the exact same result as if you had worked it out yourselves, except you receive less money? A partition of a home usually means a partition of lives, and all parties leaving angry and upset.
In the end, this issue is less about the law and more about life. What’s important to you? How far are you willing to go for self enrichment? Is it worth sacrificing a relationship? Everyone has their story and their wants and motivations. You have to try to balance everyone’s needs. You may want to ask yourself, “Am I being the bad guy here?”. That might be a hard pill to swallow, but a good rule of thumb is that if the rest of your siblings have reached a common agreement and you’re the odd one out, you may want to take a look in the mirror. Honor your parents’ memory by seeking a harmonious resolution with your kin. That’s the best you can do. And if you need a third party to come in and help negotiate, Big State will always be here. Believe us, we’ve seen countless cases just like yours. We can help.
Photo Credit: Lauren Judd