We have inherited a vacation home with my husband's two sisters. My husband lost his job and our children

Asked by Monica, New Jersey Fri Feb 22, 2008

are about to enter college. In the mean time his sisters are looking for us to contribute to renovations to the home. We cannot afford any renovations nor can we afford our share of the property tax. We want out but both his sisters have refused to buy us out or even discuss it. They both threaten to sue us for money (one sister is married to a Harvard Law graduate). Can we sell our share of the home without their consent? Can we borrow on the home without their signatures? We thought of renting our time but the sisters want to approve of all renters. Are they required to approve renters that are using our time at the home? Thanks.

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Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Tue Mar 18, 2008
Hi Monica,

I am sorry to hear that your family is so divided about this. From your description, I simply cannot understand why the sisters will not work with you to buy out your portion.

You need an attorney. I suspect you may not be able to sell out of your interest; nor finance. But, I do think you may be able to force the sale of the property if the sisters are unwiling to buy you out. It is sad that this vacation home which should bring joy is the catalyst for stress. ketih is accurate in his statement that the problem is really a relationship issue, not a real estate issue.

If the sister wish to keep and use the property, they may be willing to buy you out if they come to understand the option is that or sell.

If you need referrals to attorneys in the area, let me know.
4 votes
Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Fri Feb 22, 2008
My family went through this exact scenario. Except there were nine parties. It cost a lot of time, attorney's fees, and emotional stress on my mother (it was her family's vacation home).

I do not mean to be too direct, however going back to my own family's experience, assets of high value tend to bring out the worst in relationships. What you really have are relationship issues, the real estate aspect is magnifying the problem.

There are attorneys who offer to mediate. Mediation is usually a lower cost solution that might be of help. Sometimes retired judges or attorneys perform this as a public serivce at no charge, some will do it for a fee.

If you can provide your contact information I am happy to ask a local probate attorney for a referral for you. It is important for your to know your legal rights, as well as obligations.

I do not think borrowing on the home is feasible, nor a good idea. Selling your share of the home is also probably not an option, although depending upon the form of tenancy (ownership) I may be wrong. An attorney can tell you.

I am very sorry for your situation. I would also suggest discussing your issues with a counselor, such as a pastor, rabbi, perhaps a family therapist.

Let me know how I can help.
1 vote
Lisa Hanley, Agent, Washington Township, NJ
Fri May 9, 2008
You should consult an independent attorney to verify that a deed restrictions does not exist which would preclude you from selling, mortgaging or leasing the property. However, if none exist, you can do anything you please with your share of the home. You can sell, mortgage or lease your share without the concent of the siblings if no restrictions exist. Unfortunately, the siblings will probably recover if they sue you because you do have an obligation to maintain your share of expenses. To try to keep things civil, you might think about asking the sisters if they would like to use your husband's "time" in exchange for your contribution to the rehab/upkeep costs. Make sure you keep records of what that time was worth if the family eventually sells the home so that proper accounting can be made. Another unfortunate side effect of your husband's ownership is that it will detrimentally affect your ability to receive financial assistance for the college kids. Perhaps your sisters-in-law will see things in a different light if you explain this to them. It is unimaginable that they want to see their neices/nephews affected as I'm sure it was not your parent's intention when they willed you the house. Hope you resolve your issues.
0 votes
Patti Philli…, , Carlsbad, CA
Thu May 8, 2008
Monica, You have gotten a lot of good advice, I only have 2 things to contribute. One thing that hasn't been answered is how title is held. Depending on how title is held, you may be able to rent out or sell your "portion" of the home.

In addition, I would write a letter, carefully describing your situation to the other siblings (the letter should propbably come from your husband, not you.) Tell them your financial situation, the inability to pay what they want, and spell out what solutions you see, ie- to sell your portion to them, to someone else, to rent out your portion or to have them pay for renovations, keep receipts and you can have it taken out of your portion in the future when it sells, when they buy you out, or you can pay back your debts when money is not so tight.

Keep copies of all letters and such, and have some sort of proof of service, showing that you are trying to do the best for all. Sometimes a letter can be read, and digested without so much of the emotion of a phone call or e-mail. It also shows that you tried to be a problem solver, rather than a problem maker.

I wish you the best in this.

Patti Phillips
0 votes
Red Bank Roc…, Both Buyer And Seller, 07701
Sat Apr 19, 2008
Are you still trying to sell your home?
0 votes
Patricia Sny…, Agent, Mount Jackson, VA
Fri Mar 21, 2008
I am so sorry to hear about your family troubles. You didn't mention who the executor of the estate is. My father passed away in August (lived in NJ), the executor (one of my sisters) is taking care of all expenses until we sell the house this spring. The expenses will be deducted from the estate when it is sold. If there isn't one, you need an attorney to help you sort this out. I wish you the very best!
Web Reference:  http://www.TrishSnyder.com
0 votes
Hi, , Virginia
Fri Mar 21, 2008
why are you worried that the will sue you?
1/2 of nothing is nothing
can't squeeze water from a rock

it would be funny if you borrowed on the home
or better yet sell your share to some one else


good luck
0 votes
David Green, Agent, Cape May, NJ
Fri Feb 22, 2008
Hi Monica,

I strongly agree with Thomas. It all depends on the deed . Working in a second home market we see this quite often . Unfortunately it divides family members where the intention of the departed family member was to hopefully bring them closer. I personally am in a property with my brother that was deeded to us by our parents. I wish the deed was different so I could move on but I can't . Good luck with your situation.

0 votes
Thomas McCor…, Agent, Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Fri Feb 22, 2008
Hi Monica,
Sounds like a difficult situation. I think you need to speak with an attorney, perhaps the attorney who handled the estate if there was one. Your ability to sell your share in the house would be dependent on the deed... I would doubt that you would be able to do so. Have you had an honest conversation with the other family members regarding your situation? It's quite unfortunate that they would not be a bit more understanding. If their intention is to sell the home, perhaps they could front the monies for renovation and collect at closing. If their intention is to keep the home, I'm not sure they have any ability to force you to do anything. If you're all co-owners, you're all responsible for the property and the taxes... if you don't pay, someone else will have to to avoid losing the property. Again, I'd recommend getting some legal advice and having a sit-down with all the parties involved.

Best of luck,
Thomas McCormack
Sales Associate
0 votes
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