Can Heirs Force the Sale of Property?

When a person dies, they often leave their property to family. Unfortunately, not all heirs are in agreement about what to do with the inherited property. If you’re in this situation, you may wonder if one or more of the heirs can force the property to be sold.

The answer to the question, “Can they force the sale of the property?” is quite complicated. The short answer is “yes, they can.” The longer, more in-depth answer follows.

Questions to Consider

To determine what will happen to the property of the deceased, several questions may be asked. The answers will provide some guidelines on what will happen to the home or other real estate.

Who Owns It?

The first question to have answered is who owns the property. If a mortgage is attached to it, the mortgage company is technically the owner. Whether you get to keep the property or have to sell it will depend on whether you can assume the mortgage and make the payments or get a new loan to pay off the amount owed.

If no mortgage is attached to the property, you must determine who inherits it. If only one person is heir to the house, other heirs of the estate generally can’t force the sale of the home. If multiple siblings inherit the property jointly, they each have a say in what happens to it. This is assuming, of course, that each one has an equal share in the property. Sometimes, though not often, a person will designate a greater share to one heir than the others. This may happen because the one heir lives in the home or because they use the property. For example, one sibling may have a greater share of a farm if they work on it and the other siblings live out of state.

Do You Want to Sell or Invest?

Another thing to consider is what the heirs want to do with the property. Some may want to sell while others may want to turn the house into an investment property. If the goal is investment, one heir may choose to buy out the other heirs.

What If You Don’t Agree?

It is quite common for heirs not to agree about what to do with an inherited property. Most of the time, they can come to a compromise which allows each of them to reach their goals. However, sometimes, no agreement can be reached, which means other actions must be taken.

Navigate Probate First

Probate is the legal process of distributing the property of a deceased person. It is often required when someone dies, especially if real estate is involved. A will must be validated if it exists and creditors paid. Otherwise, the goal of the court is to ensure the deceased person’s wishes are honored. If multiple heirs own a piece of real estate, the court will ensure that any disputes are resolved.

Consider Buy Outs

One of the best options if one sibling wants to keep the property and others want to sell is to buy out the others’ portion. They could get a mortgage and pay the other heirs. If they can’t qualify for a loan or don’t want to go through the formal process, they may be able to create an informal agreement allowing them to make payments directly to the siblings.

One heir may desire to buy the property from their siblings and fix up the place to sell. This can be beneficial if they want to control what happens to the property and any updates that are made. If an heir lives in the house, it often complicates matters. They may be able to get the other siblings to accept payments as rent, allowing them to live there even though all siblings own the property equally.

Consider Taking Partition Action

At some point, if you can’t negotiate an agreement with the other heirs, you will need to take legal action. You may have to instigate a partition. This is a lawsuit against your siblings, forcing them to sell the property. It’s an expensive option, so it should always be a last resort.

The court may determine that selling the house is in the best interests of all the heirs. If one heir can’t buy out the others and still wants to retain the house, the court may decide selling and dividing the profits is the next best option. Once a partition has been filed, it can’t be undone or stopped. For this reason, it’s best to try negotiating and resolving the problem in another way.

When a partition is filed, the court will hire someone to fix the property up to sell. This might involve some minor actions to get it on the market, or it could mean major renovations. Much of the time, the court will take the least amount of time to get the house sold, even if it sells for less than it would otherwise. The heirs won’t be allowed to do any of the work or be involved in the process.

In some cases, the court may require the property to be sold at auction, which almost certainly means that it will sell for less than the value. The costs of the sale will come out of the selling price before the funds are divided between the heirs. The result is that you will get less money out of the property than if everyone had agreed to sell it without going through the court.

If you and your siblings can’t agree on whether to keep or sell the property you inherited, work to find a reasonable compromise. Remember that filing a lawsuit is really a no-win situation for all of you since you end up with less money. Instead, buying out the others or selling the house and splitting the profits may be the best decision to help you move forward with your life and get as much out of your inheritance as possible.