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My brother and I both inherited my parents’ farm. He lives near and farms the land. They gave us both their old house. I live 3 hours away so the house was vacant for about a year and a half. My brothers son got married and decided to move into the old house. My brother fixed it up for him and charges him $350 per month in rent. Taxes came due and I was forced to pay my 1/2 which is over $1000. There is no way I can recoup this money, so I told him I wanted out. Initially he said the house was only worth $5000 so he wanted me to take $25,000 and get brought out. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t think it was a fair amount because there are 2 big sheds a garage and probably some acreage. I told him we should get it appraised. He said if we did we have to subtract $5000 for what it costs for him to fix it up. Now, I didn’t tell him to fix it up and I’m not trying to cause trouble but want fairness. What do you think I should do or do I have anything I should do?
Asked on January 10, 2017 under Estate Planning, Kansas
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
Legally, there is a mechanism for forcing a sale if you and your brother cannot agree as to what to do with the property (which legal action could be settled by an agreement under which one of you--e.g. your brother--buys out the other--e.g. you--for a mutually agreed-upon price). That is something called an action "for partition." But that is the only legal option you have: to file a lawsuit to force a sale. That can be an expensive option, since it's not a straightforward legal action, like filing a small claims case (that is, you really do need an attorney), and can also lead to a great deal of animosity between you and your family.
So the real issue is, do you think that the cost of a lawyer and lawsuit, and the family conflict, is worth the extra amount you hope to realize from the property? If you're thinking he undervalued it by $50,000 or more, it probably is; if you think he undervalued it by maybe $10,000, it's not. Going the legal route is a major undertaking--have a good sense that it's worthwhile before you commit to it.
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