Jointly inheriting real estate can be tricky, particularly when the beneficiaries don’t agree on what to do with the property and want to split an inherited house. This situation often occurs when multiple siblings inherit their parent’s home as co-owners. When siblings disagree over whether to keep the property or sell it, increased family tensions can make an already emotional time even more painful.
If possible, it is always best to negotiate an arrangement that everyone can agree to, such as a buyout or rental contract. However, if the beneficiaries can’t agree, Florida law allows any beneficiary or the estate’s personal representative to force the sale of the house through a proceeding known as a “partition action.”
What Happens To a Jointly Owned Property If One Owner Dies?
It depends on whether the property is owned jointly with rights of survivorship. When property is jointly owned with rights of survivorship, and one of the owners dies, ownership passes to the surviving joint owners. Property owned in this manner does not need to go through the probate process because the “right of survivorship” passes automatically. Real estate, bank accounts, and retirement accounts owned jointly with rights of survivorship are commonly inherited outside of probate in this manner.
However, if property is owned jointly with no rights of survivorship and a joint owner dies, the deceased owner’s interest will typically need to go through probate to be distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries.
Can One Sibling Force the Sale of an Inherited House?
Yes, one sibling can ask the court to force the sale of a jointly inherited house. However, this is forcing a sale, not a way to split an inherited house.
Under Florida Probate Code 733.814, when two or more beneficiaries inherit a house or other property, the personal representative or any beneficiary can initiate a partition action. A partition action can result in the property being split into different parcels for each beneficiary. However, because single-family homes can rarely be divided like this, most partition actions involving houses result in the sale of the home.
Since any beneficiary can file a petition for partition, there is no requirement that the beneficiaries agree. This means that when siblings inherit a home together, one sibling can seek to force the sale of the house, even if it is against the other siblings’ wishes.
What Happens When One Sibling Is Living in an Inherited Property and Refuses To Sell?
When one sibling is living in a jointly inherited property and refuses to sell, and the other siblings want to sell the home, there are several way to settle the dispute. The most straightforward way to handle the situation is to have the sibling living in the home buy out the other siblings’ interests.
If the siblings cannot reach an agreement acceptable to all, any sibling who wants to sell can seek to force the sale through a partition action. The personal representative of the estate can also file a petition for partition. The court can then order the house to be sold, and the net proceeds will be divided among all the siblings after the legal fees and costs are paid from the sale proceeds.
Can I Contest a Partition Action?
Yes, you can contest a partition action. However, unless there is a valid defense or a contract that prohibits partitioning the property, it is challenging to contest a partition action. And again, a partition action is forcing the sale of a house, not a way to split an inherited house.
However, even if a partition action has been filed, a settlement agreement can still be negotiated. A common settlement plan allows the beneficiary who wants to keep the house to buy out the other beneficiaries’ shares of the property.
If this arrangement is not feasible, you may be able to come to a different understanding, such as renting the property, buying out the other beneficiaries over time through a payment plan, or forfeiting other estate property in exchange for the other beneficiaries’ interests. There are many different possible solutions, so you and the other beneficiaries can get creative.
If you are involved in a dispute over jointly-inherited property, you should reach out to a probate litigation attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer help you petition for or defend against a partition action, as well as negotiate a settlement.
Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
Call (786) 761-8333 or email [email protected]
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About RMO Lawyers, LLP
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