The scenario is more common than you think: you and your sibling(s) have jointly inherited a property. Now, you want to sell it—but your sibling wants to keep it (or vice versa), and you can’t come to an agreement. What’s next?
While finding the right solution to inheriting a house with siblings can take some time and navigation, you have options for resolving the relationship with your family member and the property you’ve inherited.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about inherited property disputes between siblings (or other joint owners). We’ll explore a central question—“Can siblings force the sale of inherited property?”—and explain possible solutions for resolving property disagreements.
What if One Person Wants to Sell an Inherited House and Another Person Doesn’t?
If you’re concerned about a potential property disagreement but haven’t yet experienced it yourself, it can help to start with an example of what might happen. Let’s establish a hypothetical scenario:
- You and your sister Margaret inherit a single-family home in the city where you grew up. The property is in good condition, and real estate values are up in the area.
- You no longer live in the city, and Margaret does. She doesn’t want to sell the property, thinking that it will continue to accrue equity that you both can convert to cash at a later time.
- You want to sell the property because you no longer live there, and you don’t think Margaret has the resources or the time to keep up the property while it sits vacant. You don’t trust her with dealing with property taxes, maintenance expenses, or insurance.
Legally speaking, there are means by which you can force the sale (and we’ll discuss them in later sections). However, some alternatives can help lead to more favorable outcomes for all parties involved.
Scenario #1: You Want to Sell
Let’s maintain the hypothetical from the last section—you want to sell, but your sister Margaret does not. Per the deceased’s will, you’re equal owners of the property. What can you do to resolve the situation in your favor and be able to sell the house?
When it comes to selling an inherited house, you have two options that could lead to an amicable solution for you and your sibling:
- You can sell your portion of the house to Margaret. However, for this option, she’ll have to come up with the capital to buy you out.
- You can keep the property and establish a Tenancy In Common (TIC).
In a TIC agreement, you legally split your ownership of the property, establishing partial ownership in whatever proportion you wish.
For instance, you can keep 40% of the house while Margaret keeps 60%, you can split it equally, or you can sell a portion of your ownership to a third person and create a three-way split. In addition, when you establish a TIC, you can sell your portion to another person (Margaret included) or borrow against it at any time.
Scenario #2: You Don’t Want to Sell
Let’s reverse the hypothetical—you’re Margaret, and you want to keep the house, but your sibling Emily doesn’t want to sell.
Emily suggests that you buy her out of her share of the house, but you don’t have the cash available to make the purchase. You have multiple options for acquiring the funds, including:
- Taking out a personal loan from a financial institution
- Using a traditional home equity loan to fund the sale
- Applying for a reverse mortgage if you’re over the age of 62 and meet other criteria
- Finding a sale-leaseback program: In this type of program, you could sell your home for fair market value. With the cash you now have, you can purchase your sibling’s share of the inherited home and buy back your own home once you’ve regained the funds needed to do so.
How Can You Resolve Conflict Over Family Inheritance?
If you and your sibling(s) can’t agree to any of the above solutions, you have other options for resolution. Other compromises might include:
- Converting the home into a rental property
- Physically dividing the property, if possible
However, there are also legal actions you can take if you can’t come to an agreement. These include:
- Seeking legal mediation to help resolve the conflict, which will likely incur costs such as legal fees
- Forcing the sale through a partition action
If you or a sibling is looking to force a sale of inherited property, it can be done through a partition action. However, there are some considerations for this route.
What Is a Partition Action?
A Partition Action, also known as a partition lawsuit is a legal procedure where one partial owner of a property forces the sale of the property. In our hypothetical, Emily would file a Partition Action against Margaret, forcing her to sell, which is called a forced sale.
A judge would order both parties to sell and order the partition of the funds between the parties (equally or otherwise).
However, a partition action should be a last resort. Partition actions are less-than-ideal because:
- Legal fees like attorney payments and court fees can incur significant expenses.
- You could create a potentially lifelong rift between yourself and your family member.
- If you change your mind about your desire to sell, the proceedings cannot stop once they’ve started.
If you’re hoping for an amicable compromise, you should try your best to avoid a partition action. Fortunately, the availability of sale-leaseback programs makes it possible for one person to purchase the home, even if they don’t currently have the cash.
Sell Your Inherited Home With a Sale-Leaseback
Inheriting a house can be complicated, and resolving inherited property disputes can be complex and emotional, but you have options that can lead to a peaceful solution for all involved.
If you’re ready to sell inherited real estate, a sale-leaseback can help. With a sale-leaseback program, homeowners can easily convert their home equity to cash, with the added flexibility needed to transition smoothly, all without the need for a real estate agent.
If you’re interested in selling a house for cash, inherited or not, a streamlined solution to your equity needs is just a few clicks away. Contact a financial advisor to consider all of your options and figure out what financial solutions could work best for you.
Investopedia. Tenancy in Common. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tenancy_in_common.asp
Investopedia. Guide to Reverse Mortgages. https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/reverse-mortgage/
Stone & Sallus, LLP. How to Win A Partition Action. https://www.stonesalluslaw.com/real-estate-law/how-to-win-a-partition-action/