How do I stand legally if I’m the co-owner of a house and don’t want to sell but the other owners do?

After my father died 16 years ago, my mother signed over their house to my brother, sister and I with the provision that she could remain there until she died and then the house would be sold. She lived with my sister and nephew in the house. Since then my sister has married and moved and my mother moved in with someone else leaving my nephew and his girlfriend in the house. It was always said that if things didn’t work out with her new partner she would move back to the house. Things haven’t worked, so she has decided to sell the house to my nephew and purchase a retirement home. Can she sell it without my signature? Can my brother and sister override me?

Asked on February 28, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Alaska


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In a situation in which which co-owners of property cannot agree on ownership matters, the party seeking a sale can go before a judge and seek an "action in partition”. This is a legal is a legal remedy used in situations such as this. It can be accomplished by the physical division of the property, if possible. In the case of a single family dwelling, since physical division is not practical, the court would order a "partition by sale". Once the property was sold, the proceeds would be equitably distributed to the owners. However, before such a sale would be ordered, the court would first permit the co-owner wishing to keep the property the right to buyout the interest of the other co-owner for fair market value.
Note: Since filing for partition is costly, try to explain this to your siblings. In the meantime, you can consult directly with a local real estate attorney who can best advise you further.

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