What happens if2 parties inherit an estate, but one party wants to sell?

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What happens if2 parties inherit an estate, but one party wants to sell?

My father died in 2004, and he left his house to me and my niece. My cousin has lived in the house since 2004, and I have lived in Pittsburgh, making yearly trips to the farm to visit. Recently my niece has decided to sell the house and 5 acres of land. I haven’t ever seen the a Will, but my father told me before he died that the house would be left to me and my niece, and that neither of us were to sell it. If she plans on selling the house, she must be on the deed. What can I do to prevent her from selling our family’s farm?

Asked on June 18, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all you need to get a copy of the Will. You have to find out just what you actually inherited. Were you gifted the house outright? Or we you given a "life estate" so the you may possess and use the property during your respective lifetimes, but cannot sell or otherwise transfer the property (and after death the property passes to a "remainderman")? Or was the property placed in a trust? Or was there another legal vehicle used? Again, you need to see the Will. To get a copy you can ask your family if someone has one or you can get a copy from the probate court in which the case was heard.

If you inherited the property outright, then your niece can sell the property. The reason is that when 2 co-owners cannot agree as the whether or not to sell property, the party in favor of the sale can go to court and file an action for "partition". This is a legal remedy which allows for the division of property among co-owners if the property can be physically divided.  However, where division would be impracticable (as in the instance of a single family house) a court would order a sale in lieu of partition and an equitable division of the proceeds among the co-owners.  However, before doing so, a judge would permit one co-owner to purchase the interest of the remaining co-owner at fair market value.

At this point you should consult directly with a real estate attorney in your area.


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