Divided Estates And The Family Home

If you have been appointed to oversee your parent's estate, you may have many questions about your duties. Dealing with the issues of the estate as the personal representative (also known as the executor in some locations) is both an honor and a heavy responsibility, and most people have little knowledge of what to expect once that parent passes away. If you have siblings, you may encounter an even more confusing issue: having to divide the estate between two or more brothers or sisters. To learn more about the duties of a personal representative, and about dividing real estate in particular, read on.

Dividing the Estate

Often, the last will and testament left by the deceased strives to keep it simple and thus will indicate that all assets of the estate should be divided among several people equally (normally the children of the deceased). It should be noted that this information herein pertains only to the death of a widow or widower, since the spouse of the deceased gets special considerations upon the death of a spouse, including the inheritance of real estate.

Everything the deceased owned comes into play when dealing with the estate, and many pieces of property are easily divided. For example, the funds in bank and investment accounts can usually be divided relativity evenly. The division of the family home, however, can present a challenge.

Personal Representative Duties

Most wills must be probated, a process that can take several months, so it might be somewhat consoling to know that no decisions about the deposition of the family home have to be made right away. There are, however, other personal representative duties that involve real estate and that must take place in a more timely manner, such as:

  • Paying property taxes.
  • Paying the mortgage loan payments, second mortgage or home equity loans.
  • Paying certain utility bills and keeping some utilities, such as the water and electricity, running.
  • Paying condo association fees, storage fees, yard and home upkeep fees, etc.
  • Paying homeowners' insurance premiums.
  • Arranging and paying for an appraisal on the home.

Once Probate is Final

With the final ruling by the probate court and the appraisal in hand, it will be time for you to make a decision on the family home. There are several avenues to take, including:

  1. Sell the home and divide the proceeds.
  2. Sell the home to a sibling (the sibling would need to provide cash to buy the other sibling's share of the home).
  3. Trade estate assets for the home. For example, a sibling who wants the home could trade any interest or share in bank accounts or other property.
  4. The siblings agree to share and use the home together, with each taking an equal share of the costs and responsibilities. This option can be extended to include one sibling paying rent to the other siblings.
  5. The siblings agree to own the home together and rent it out to others.

Be sure to speak to an attorney, like those at Moore, O'Connell & Refling PC, for more information about the duties of a personal representative and how a family home gets divided.