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My Siblings Want to Buy My Share of the Family Home

This week’s blog comes from a question from another podcast listener:

My father recently passed and left me and my two siblings each a 1/3 share of his house. His house has no mortgage on it and my siblings want to sell the house. Before the sale, they want to buy my 1/3 of the house. I’m hesitant because I think they can sell it for more than what they’re offering for my share.  What should I do?

In this case, unless I think that the 1/3 purchase by the siblings is wildly unfair, I would likely advise the sibling to take the 1/3, or have an honest conversation and share concerns with the other siblings to come to a mutual written agreement before closing.

When unmarried people own a house and cannot agree on what to do with that house, then a partition lawsuit is the only other remedy available. Contrary to the popular opinion, in a partition lawsuit, the Judge will typically force the sale of the house; the owners are then left to determine (I.e. fight over) the distribution of the sales proceeds.

Partition lawsuits are governed by Chapter 64 of Florida Statutes.  The reason the judge orders the sale is because a house is typically “nondivisible” (Section 64.071).  Unless the deed describes otherwise, the judge will assume the property is owned in equal percentages by each party: if there are two owners then each owns 50%, and if there are three owners then each owns 1/3, etc.  Once the house is sold, the proceeds will be split based upon the ownership of the property, unless one party proves that they should receive more than their share.  For example, if one sibling paid the property taxes every year, then that sibling would get their share adjusted to account for the property taxes paid.  If one sibling was paying all the mortgage payments, then the split of proceeds would be adjusted to account for the mortgage payments.  If one sibling was renting the property, then the other sibling would be entitled to more to adjust for the rent collected.  If one sibling has to hire an attorney to prevail in the case, that attorney’s fees may be factored in as an adjustment to each siblings’ share of the sales proceeds. Etc. 

Ask any realtor or appraiser what impacts the value of property and you’ll get slightly different answers.  Ask the buyer and the values can differ too! I’ve also written blogs on the perils of litigation: the time it might take to litigate a dispute, plus all of the other factors involved (emotional stress, settlement factors, time, etc.).

Considering all of these things, if the disputing sibling fights in court then receipt of her share will take longer to receive, may be reduced by other factors involved in the home maintenance, and will alienate the other siblings.  On the other hand, I am not advising the sibling to simply roll over and accept this decision.  If there is a dispute, sit down and talk it out. The sibling will maintain family harmony, likely get paid faster, and may be able to negotiate a larger than 1/3 share by remaining calm and talking it over with her family.  Of course if there are no other alternatives, then litigation remains a viable solution, but one that should be considered carefully in connection with the potential partition of the former family home.

For more information on partition, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options at 813-774-5737 or email me directly at shawn@yesnerlaw.com.  Please also check out the Crushing Debt book on Amazon. You can also subscribe to the Crushing Debt Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players, including Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) for more free information about these topics.

Shawn M. Yesner, Esq., is the host of the Crushing Debt Podcast, author of the Crushing Debt book, and founder of Yesner Law, P.L., a Clearwater-based boutique real estate and consumer law firm that helps clients eliminate the financial bullies in their lives. We assist clients with asset protection, the sale and purchase of real property, Chapter 7 liquidation, Chapter 13 reorganization, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt settlement, landlord/tenant issues, short sales, and loan modifications in Clearwater, Tampa, Westchase, Odessa, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park, Largo, St. Petersburg, and throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.

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