Inheriting physical real estate, such as a home or vacation cabin, can be tricky to navigate. You have to consider your desire for the property, potential expenses involved in ownership, and the process of transitioning ownership of the property to your name. These situations become more complicated when you add joint ownerships and partial interests.
People have been known to leave homes or vacation properties to their children to have in equal shares. This is common in cases where the property has been in the family for generations. Property left to multiple people is considered equally owned as “tenants-in-common” or “co-tenants”. All co-tenants have the right to use all of the property and share in any profits or liabilities from it.
“I don’t want a cabin in the woods if my brother’s there too.”
Inevitably disagreements arise when dealing with co-tenants. Common disagreements include disputes over renting out the property, inequality in sharing time at the property, and proper distribution of the cost of upkeep. Much of the times it can seem like the burdens of maintenance fall on a single person while other owners reap the benefits.
If the time comes that remaining co-tenants is no longer in the best interest of those involved, you do have other options. It is possible to file an action in court to ask for the property to be fairly divided. This may mean dictating when the property is accessible to each party or determining a process for tallying and covering expenses. If the court is unable to divide the property fairly, it can force a sale. The sale of a property owned by co-tenants can be either to a third party where the co-tenants split the proceeds of the sale or one co-tenant can buyout the other shares.
Seeking Alternative Solutions
Sibling infighting is, sadly, not uncommon following the death of a parent. If you and your siblings have recently inherited property where you will serve as co-tenants, it is possible to come to an amicable resolution. As with all estate planning, open lines of communication are the best safeguard.
Parents who are considering leaving property to multiple owners should first discuss it with their children. Co-tenantship may not be the best option for everyone involved.
Children who have already inherited property should be open with their siblings. If you believe the distribution of the property is unfair, discuss this with your siblings before the situation gets out of control.