When Siblings Clash: Exploring Options For Dividing Inherited Real Estate

May 9, 2024 | Partition Action

When parents create a will, it is not uncommon for them to leave their home or real estate to their children without specifying how the property should be divided among them. Generally, the intention is for the children to share the inheritance of the property equally, with each of them benefiting in the same way.

Unfortunately, disagreements may arise among sibling heirs due to their individual life circumstances, needs, and aspirations, causing them to have differing opinions on how to divide the property.

One sibling may wish to retain the property as their personal residence, while another may prefer to sell it and distribute the profits. Some may consider selling the property to purchase a new home, while others might choose to keep it and rent it out. Emotional attachment to the property may lead one sibling to want to preserve it for future generations, whereas another sibling may view it solely as a means to an end and opt to sell it.

If these conflicts escalate to the point where the siblings cannot reach an agreement on dividing the property, the only option left may be to initiate a partition action.

In this article, we will discuss your options when it comes to dividing your property in a partition action. We will also present some questions to ponder before filing for a partition action, the various types of partition actions available, and some other alternatives available to you in resolving the dispute.

What Is A Partition Action?

A partition action is simply a legal process used to divide and distribute property among co-owners. This action is typically taken when co-owners cannot agree on how to manage or use the property, and requires a third party, such as a judge or a mediator, to determine how the property should be divided.

In such cases, a partition action lawyer who focuses on property law can help guide you through the complexities of the legal process. They can assist you in seeking a resolution that is fair and equitable for all parties involved, while advocating for your best interests.

Considerations Before Starting A Partition   

Before suing your sister(s) or going to battle against your brother(s) in court, it may

be worth your time to take a step back and ask yourself some tough questions to help you decide whether a protracted legal contest is really the best and only way to resolve the issue. Begin by answering these questions:

What would your parents have wanted? 

You find yourself in this current position in large part because of the efforts of your parents. They dedicated their entire lives to supporting you and your siblings, and now they have entrusted you with their life earnings and possessions. It is important to respect their wishes and honor their memory by carrying out their desires.

Clearly, their intentions were to ensure the well-being of both you and your siblings. Do you really believe that what they had in mind was a lengthy legal battle with your siblings, pitting family against each other over their estate? Or would they have wanted you to find a way to work together and work it out?

Asking yourself that question and talking to your siblings about it before acting might be a good idea, even though it might be hard to answer or impossible to adhere to.

Will it affect your relationship with your sibling(s)?

Taking your siblings to court is bound to affect your relationship with them, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly. A lot depends, of course, on your present relationship with your siblings and whether you are close with them or not. If you are close to them and if you have a strong relationship with them, then taking them to court is likely to have a detrimental impact on your relationship. Ultimately, you may have to make a decision between your relationship with your siblings and your desire to honor your parents’ wishes over your desire to get your fair share.

Is there another way?

If these questions have made you stop and think about your decision to take legal action against members of your own family, it may be worth considering alternative ways to resolve the conflict. Have you thoroughly explored all possible options, or are there still some that you have not considered? Maybe it’s time to get creative and brainstorm some ideas you haven’t yet thought of, or elicit some advice from a third party. Consider exploring alternative options that could help resolve the issue while maintaining a positive relationship with your siblings.

Is it worth it?

Ultimately, everything comes down to choices. Choices about values and what is most important in our lives. When it comes to family disputes, there is an added element that makes the decision harder than it is in other situations. In addition to considering what is best for you, you also have to consider what is best for your siblings, as well as your own family and circumstances.

Occasionally, making these decisions can be challenging, but they are ultimately the choices that you have to make. Once you have thoroughly addressed the challenging inquiries and carefully considered all the possibilities, you can confidently select the option that aligns with your best interests.

Types Of Partition Actions

If you made it through the gauntlet of questions, and have still decided to file for partition, there are a few types of actions you can choose from.

1. Partition By Sale: In this type of partition, the property is sold and the proceeds are divided among the co-owners. This is typically done when the co-owners cannot agree on how to manage or divide the property.

  • Winners: In this scenario, everyone is a potential winner. Everyone gets an equitable split of the proceeds, and there is no more shared property to manage or divide. Each party is free to use their portion as they see fit, and the parties can move on with their lives.
  • Losers: Siblings who have a deep emotional attachment to the property, who are financially dependent on the property as a source of income, or who were using the home as a primary residence for a lengthy period of time may not be able to come to terms with the idea of selling the home. However, no one can take away their memories of the home, and they still end up with a fair split of the proceeds.

2. Partition In Kind: For this type of partition, the property is physically divided among the co-owners. This is more likely if the property can be easily divided, such as in the case of large plots of land.

  • Winners: This is an outcome that, once again, truly benefits everyone involved. The parties get an equitable split of the property, and there is no longer any property to divide or manage. Every party is allowed to use their portion however they see fit. It is likely that each party will be able to sell their portion of the property and keep the proceeds if the property is actually split.
  • Losers: Physically dividing the property, despite being distributed equally, could potentially decrease its value and complicate the selling process. The sum of the parts may be less valuable than the whole. In addition, individuals who want to retain their share of the property might encounter difficulties in finding buyers, leaving them with an unwanted property.

3. Partition By Appraisal: In this type, an appraiser determines the value of the property, and one party pays the other party the amount that they would receive if the property were sold.

  • Winners: Another win-win situation, in that each party gets what they want. The person who wants the property can keep it, and the other party can walk away from the transaction with some cash in hand.
  • Losers: The current real estate market will ultimately decide who the  winner or loser is in this situation. In a seller’s market with a high appraisal value, the party forced to buyout the other party may be forced to pay a lot more than they want to. In a buyer’s market, the reverse is true. If the appraisal is too high, the party paying out the other party may not be able to afford to buy the property, and the courts will likely order a forced sale of the property to an outside third party.

A partition action lawyer can guide their clients through these different types of partition actions and help them choose the best option for their circumstances.

Alternative Methods To A Partition Action?

Co-owners have many options available to them prior to taking the action of partition. A few options are listed below:

  1. Negotiating and Mediation: Siblings can try to agree on the terms of resolving a dispute without going to court. This can be done by having an open and frank discussion of the problem, and trying to reach a mutually acceptable solution. If necessary, it can be done with a mediator who helps the parties find common ground.
  2. Buyout Agreement: Siblings who disagree over what to do with an inherited property may consider the option of one or more co-owners buying out the other(s). The co-owner(s) being bought out may receive a cash payout as part of the buyout, or other assets or agreements may be used to offset the value of the co-owner’s share.  A buyout agreement may be complicated and/or require the services of a lawyer to draft and execute.
  3. Property Management Agreement: One sibling can allow the other to remain in the home and rent it out instead of selling it. The sibling will receive a share of the rental income from the property in proportion to their ownership interest. The terms of the rent, maintenance responsibilities and decision-making process should be put into writing.
  4. Co-ownership Agreement: If you decide to share ownership of the property, it’s best to get a co-ownership agreement. Having a clear plan and understanding of what needs to be done can be incredibly helpful in avoiding future difficulties. The document can be simple and straightforward, with everything written down: how to deal with disputes, who pays what, and who decides what.
  5. Sale With Right Of First Refusal: Rather than require a sale, co-owners can agree to list the property for sale but grant each other the right of first refusal (ROFR). This means that both co-owners have the opportunity to match any offer received from an outside buyer before the seller accepts that offer.

Looking For Legal Guidance On A Partition? We Can Help!

It can be challenging to resolve disputes among siblings when it comes to dividing an inherited estate. However, there are times when tough decisions must be made in the best interest of your own family and financial future. If you find yourself unable to satisfy everyone involved, it may be beneficial to seek the guidance of a partition action attorney. They can assist you in determining the most suitable course of action.

Should you have any inquiries or simply wish to explore your alternatives, reach out to a partition action lawyer at the Law Offices of Patel & Cardenas. During your complimentary consultation, we will assist you in comprehending your rights and options, as well as explain the necessary steps to move forward and safeguard your interests. Contact us today!

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