If you have a brother or sister, you know it can be hard to get siblings to agree about anything, let alone what to do with inherited property. Following the loss of a loved one, complex emotions are at play that can cloud your judgment or alter your outlook. You may decide inheriting a property like a house that needs work isn’t worth the headache, while your sibling may be motivated by their sentimental attachment to hold onto it. In these situations, it can feel like taking siblings to court is inevitable.
At Gokal Law Group, we have helped beneficiaries successfully navigate this emotionally tumultuous time through negotiation or, if necessary, Orange County trust litigation. Read on to learn more about taking legal action against siblings over inherited property.
Does the “Majority Rule” Apply When Selling Inherited Property?
In California, “majority rule” is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to selling an inherited property. When multiple people own property, any owner can file a partition action to divest from property that cannot be divided.
A partition action involves taking siblings to court to force a sale of property and divide the profits among siblings per a testamentary instrument. A forced sale can even occur when the majority of siblings want to maintain ownership of the property.
Can You Force the Sale of Inherited Property by Taking Siblings to Court?
In California, a co-owner of an inherited property can force a sale of that property by taking legal action against siblings with a lawsuit called a partition action, a legal proceeding that can result in the court ordering the sale of the property and the division of the profits among siblings.
Under California Code of Civil Procedure 872.210, a co-owner can file a partition action against any co-owner when they disagree about whether or not they want to sell the property and the property cannot be divided. To file a partition, the following conditions must be met:
- A disagreement exists between owners about whether to sell a property
- The property cannot be divided (e.g. a home or car that cannot be split in half)
Once one sibling files a partition, it is very difficult to stop the sale. The most common alternative to taking siblings to court with this lawsuit is reaching a settlement agreement that allows the siblings who want to keep the property to buy out the one who doesn’t.
In other words, the fact that a partition has been filed does not mean there is no way to avoid a forced sale if the siblings contesting a trust can come to terms. For example, imagine a house is worth $300,000, and there are three siblings, each owning a third.
If one sibling wants to keep the house, that sibling could offer to pay each of the others $100,000 for a total of $200,000 to own the property, effectively buying them out. However, this gets more complicated if there is still a mortgage on the house.
“Whenever there are siblings in a trust dispute, it is important to remember that an attorney is essential even if you want to avoid litigation. A lawyer can help siblings who inherited property they cannot divide negotiate the sale of one co-owner’s share. Too often, the emotions that surface in these situations and deep-rooted sibling rivalries result in legal action against siblings. A lawyer can help you and your siblings agree on the home’s value or arrange an appraisal. Just as importantly, if taking siblings to court is unavoidable, then a premier lawyer is an invaluable ally.” – Harry Wallace, Trust Litigation Attorney in Orange County, Gokal Law Group
Another common resolution occurs when a sibling agrees to pay the other sibling to rent out the property.
Premier Trust Litigation Lawyers in Orange County
When taking siblings to court, more than capital or material gain is at stake – family ties are on the line, too. These situations are when you need each other the most. Working with a premier attorney is of the utmost importance to help negotiate a settlement and preserve your relationship so you can heal from losing a loved one. Still, if trust litigation in Orange County is unavoidable, a lawyer will also be essential to advocating for your interests.