DEALING WITH FAMILY MEMBERS
Disputes among siblings or legal heirs over the settlement of inherited property are common. Often, disputes over a property are dominated by past issues of sibling rivalry and are a fight for dominance. In the absence of parental guidance, adult siblings are left to face the scenario of ambiguity or disagreements over their rightful role.
It is essential that you work to ensure that disputes and disagreements do not lead to litigation. Litigation will only worsen the situation by causing issues with family members and creating uncertainty and wasting time waiting for legal issues to be settled, as well as the usual expense and aggravation associated with legal hearings. The tremendous cost involved in litigation is certainly a wasteful expenditure. Litigation is not the peacemaker’s choice prevent it whenever you possibly can.
This situation can be avoided. By keeping the emotional heat down and a compromising frame of mind in the forefront, there is generally a solution that can be made for a peaceful settlement. Where creative solutions to these problems can be facilitated, there is a mutual gain for all concerned.
A good solution is for one of the heirs to buy the property from the others. Ordinarily, if you inherit the home with your siblings without any remaining mortgage, the rule is that ownership is to be evenly split unless otherwise stated in the will. If one of the siblings is interested in keeping it while the others want to sell it, the interested sibling can buy out the others using conventional financing.
The cost involved in this process can be minimal and includes the appraiser’s fees and the closing costs. If this will work, you pay your siblings in cash for their shares and get the title of the property transferred into your sole name through a deed.
Alternatively, a private agreement can prove useful under some circumstances. For instance, if you or your sibling cannot qualify for a mortgage, the one who does not wish to keep the house can finance the transaction. This will mean you will not need a home loan or incur out of pocket expenses.
For a private agreement, you make a promissory note to your sibling for his or her share of the value as assessed by the appraisal. The amount due to him or her can be paid in monthly installments along with interest. With this arrangement, you can buy out the property over time. If necessary, you may also make a deed of trust that grants the power to foreclose if you default on payments.
Renting the property could be the solution if none of the siblings are interested in keeping the property personally, but as a group, the heirs see the benefit in the house as rental or investment property. If you have a friendly relationship and can get along for a long period as co-owners of the property, you can rent out the property and take your share out of the proceeds monthly. If one of the siblings manages the collection of rental payments and arranges maintenance for the property, the effort can be rewarded by the others with an increased share. Whatever the terms are, though, it is advisable to record them in a written agreement to forestall future disagreements and conflict.
Sometimes, though, the best arrangement under these circumstances is still to sell the property, subtract the expenses and costs involved, and the commissions paid, and then divide the resulting amount among you. Selling the property as soon as you inherit also helps save on the capital gains tax. Capital gains tax for sale of the inherited property is calculated on the property value after the death of the decedent. Since the difference may not be much if the time between death and sale is short, you may be left with nothing to pay in capital gains tax.
A lawsuit for partition should be the last resort for you to settle the inherited property if you cannot come to an amicable agreement with your sibling over the settlement. If it comes down to it, you can file a lawsuit asking the judge to order the sale of the home and terminate your co-ownership. This is a complicated process and the judge usually appoints a mediator first, to get the property ready for sale. If you are at odds with each other, you and your siblings might not be able to do this. Therefore, you will need to have an agent sell the home and mediate between you.