In estate planning, one of the most valuable assets people usually leave for their heirs is real estate. A parent or grandparent may bequeath a fully paid off house or parcel of land to their kids and grandkids with the best of intentions. However, when property passes to multiple heirs, differing opinions about its use and whether they should keep the asset can quickly lead to conflict. The good news is that by knowing your options beforehand, you may be able to avoid disagreements regarding inherited property later on. So, what happens when you co-inherit property?
The “Tenancy in Common” Situation
When multiple heirs inherit a piece of real property such as a condominium, a house, or a tract of land without specific instructions as to ownership interests, they will each get a share of the property. The legal term for a group owning property in this way is a “Tenancy in Common.” Each heir has an equal right to the property, meaning that anyone in the tenancy in common can occupy and direct what happens with the dwelling or land. The more heirs who inherit property, the more complicated a tenancy in common can become. If you have a small group, it may be possible that everyone will agree to sell the property or keep it. However, it’s common for people in this situation to disagree, which can add strain to family relationships and create undue stress. Fortunately, there are options when everyone can’t agree on what to do with jointly inherited property.
When tenants-in-common can’t or won’t agree on how to manage inherited real estate, one or more heir can file a partition action. A partition action is a legal request by a co-owner to sub-divide their interest out of the jointly-owned property. In California, partitions can result in two possible conclusions:
- Partition by Division
Partition by division is a remedy applied when there is an undivided parcel of property, and one or more parties wants to separate their interest. When a property is partitioned by division, a court will divide the land and establish new property lines. Each co-owner will be given a parcel which they will own and can do with what they please. This method allows owners who want to retain the property to keep their part of it while others will be free to sell. This form of division is preferable but may not be realistic in some locations due to issues such as easements, setbacks, zoning, and lot restrictions.
- Partition by Sale
Partition by sale requires that a property be sold off and that owners divide the proceeds. This method is not considered ideal, but in some cases, it may be unavoidable. For example, suppose three people have a tenancy in common in a home, and one wants to sell, one wants to rent the property out, and the other wants to live there. The remedy may be to ask the court for a partition by sale where the property would be placed on the market and sold. Each co-owner would be paid for their interest in the property, and they could go their separate ways.
Partition actions can be complicated, and it’s vital that you understand your options and alternatives before filing. If you have co-inherited property in California and need help, you should contact a California real estate attorney to help you evaluate the situation and find the best solution for your circumstances.
Contact the Law Office of Raffy Boulgourjian
Attorney Raffy Boulgourjian is a California real estate attorney with over twenty years of experience representing clients in residential and commercial real estate matters. He has the knowledge and expertise to protect your real estate interests. Contact Mr. Boulgourjian today to schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your California real estate legal needs.