What Happens When Siblings Disagree on the Sale of an Inherited Asset?

If you and your siblings have recently inherited an asset from a deceased family member, it is common for disagreements to arise, especially regarding the sale of the asset itself. In the wake of losing a loved one, these rifts can cause deep-seated rivalries and resentments to surface and further complicate matters. Clients walk through our door every day wondering what happens when siblings disagree on the sale of an inherited asset. Luckily, we are here to explain what you can anticipate, your options, and why working with a lawyer is essential.

At Gokal Law Group, we have helped countless siblings navigate this emotional chapter to achieve an outcome that satisfies all parties. Through mediation, you can preserve your relationship with your siblings when you need each other the most. So, let’s get into it!

What Happens When Siblings Disagree on the Sale of an Inherited Asset?

If you and your siblings have inherited an asset together, disagreements often occur, especially when it comes to selling that asset. Two common sources of contention are siblings disagreeing with each other about selling an asset or siblings disagreeing with a trustee. 

Related Article: The Emotional Toll of Siblings Contesting a Trust in California

When Siblings Disagree with Each Other About Selling an Asset

If you and your sibling(s) have vastly different opinions about selling an asset you have inherited together, tensions between you can surface, especially considering the emotions surrounding the recent passing of a loved one and complex family dynamics. 

Still, it is important to proceed tactfully to avoid costly and exhausting litigation that could potentially irreparably damage your relationship with your loved ones. We recommend working with an objective mediator to craft a creative alternative dispute resolution that satisfies all siblings.

Maybe you want to sell an inherited home because you don’t want to deal with the maintenance, taxes, and other expenses associated with keeping it, but your sibling wants to keep it. In this situation, you and a mediator could set up an arrangement where one sibling rents the home from the others and assumes the related responsibilities.

Another potential solution could be a buyout. For example, if one sibling wants to keep the property and two want to sell it, the sibling who wants to keep it could buy them out of their shares. This would require getting a professional appraisal to ensure they receive fair market value.

If the sibling does not have enough cash to buy them out at that moment, a mediator could help reach an alternative repayment plan that involves paying them in installments. If that is not possible, pursuing financing may be the only option.

However, if a compromise is impossible, you or another sibling may resort to legal action. Imagine you want to sell the property, but your two other siblings do not. In this situation, you can file a partition action lawsuit with an attorney, and the court will force the sale. 

With recent law changes, your siblings will have the first opportunity to purchase the property, meaning you could still reach an amicable outcome. But it’s important to remember that this is litigation, and things can quickly become contentious or hostile, so this should be your last resort.

Related Article: Can a Beneficiary Stop the Sale of a Property in California?

When Siblings Disagree with the Trustee About Selling an Asset

Sometimes, siblings may disagree with the trustee about selling an asset. In these situations, what happens when siblings disagree on the sale of an inherited asset changes. Depending on the situation, working with an attorney may be crucial to defending your inheritance. 

Two reasons siblings might disagree about the sale of an asset is because they either don’t like who the trustee is selling it to or they’re unsatisfied with the price the trustee is selling it for. In many cases, these two issues overlap.

If the trustee is selling the asset to themselves or their spouse, for example, this could signal a severe breach of fiduciary duty and a conflict of interest, especially if they sell it below market value. 

When someone assumes the responsibility of acting as a trustee, they have a duty to make the trust profitable and always act in the best interests of beneficiaries and the trust. The trustee cannot benefit in any way from their role at the expense of beneficiaries. 

Another situation in which siblings may disagree with the trustee selling an asset is simpler: they may not want the trustee to sell the asset at all. In these scenarios, it’s important to work with an attorney to review the trust document thoroughly to see if it gives the trustee the authority to sell it regardless of the wishes of the beneficiaries.

It’s also important to remember that a trustee must pay all debts and taxes owed by the trust before they can distribute assets. If there are not enough funds in the trust to do so, then they may have to sell assets to make those payments. 

“Countless circumstances cause disagreements among siblings regarding the sale of an asset, whether they disagree with each other or the trustee. Inherited assets often carry deep sentimental value, so more than money is on the line. Working with an attorney is essential in any situation to reach a compromise everyone is happy with or file a partition action lawsuit. These matters are complex, so you need expert guidance navigating them.”

– Andrew Micaraset, Associate, Gokal Law Group

Related Article: Can a Trustee Buy Property from the Trust in California?

Do You Need Help Reaching a Resolution with a Sibling Regarding an Inherited Asset? Schedule a consultation! 


Countless outcomes are possible when it comes to what happens when siblings disagree on the sale of an inherited asset. The only way to protect your interests, defend your rightful inheritance, and preserve the integrity of the trust is to work with an expert attorney. 

Visit our Contact Page to schedule a consultation for expert help during this process.


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