How to Divide a House Among Siblings
The division of an inherited estate among family members can often become quite complex. Disputes among co-heirs begin when determining the fate of real estate, with some wanting to sell it immediately and others wishing to keep the property but lacking the financial means to buy out the others. In this article, we will provide practical answers to common questions on this topic, focusing on how to divide a house among siblings.
Who decides whether to sell the house?
To sell the house, the consent of all the owners is required, and they must sign the notarial deed. Therefore, unanimity is necessary for a sale to proceed; otherwise, the property cannot be sold. There is no way to force a co-heir to sell, except by resorting to the judicial procedure of forced property division through the court, which we will discuss shortly.
So, the objection of even a single heir is sufficient to prevent the sale of the property by the others.
How to compel the sale of the house?
Now, let’s assume that one of the co-heirs wants to sell the property, but the others do not. What can the first heir do?
The first step is to sell their share of the inheritance. For example, an heir who owns 33% of the house can decide to sell their ideal share. In this case, they must respect the pre-emption right of the other co-heirs, meaning they must offer it to them at the same price as a third party. To do this, they must communicate their intention to sell to the other co-owners. If there is no response within two months, they can proceed with the sale.
The second option is to resort to the court, as previously mentioned, and request a judicial division of the inheritance. This option involves dividing the property in-kind or, if that’s not feasible (for example, when there is a small co-owned apartment among five heirs), selling it at auction. We will discuss this in more detail shortly.
Who decides whether to rent the house?
While waiting to make a decision on selling the property, one could also decide to rent it. Legal precedents suggest that even if signed by only one co-heir, a lease agreement is valid. It is considered an act of ordinary administration that each co-owner is authorized to perform, assuming they act on behalf of the others.
What happens with the acceptance of inheritance?
The registration, sale, or rental of the house assumes the intention to become heirs. If the deceased’s family members have not already accepted the inheritance, this effect occurs automatically upon the signing of such contracts. These acts are considered a form of tacit acceptance of the inheritance.
Can the house be divided?
Before turning to the court, siblings who have inherited the same house can reach an agreement that includes:
- Physical division
The sale can be made in favor of one of the co-heirs or a third party. In the first case, the other co-heirs transfer their respective shares to the buyer in exchange for the monetary equivalent. In the second case, the entire property is transferred. Nevertheless, a notarial deed is always necessary.
Physical division requires three conditions:
- The acceptance of the inheritance by all sibling co-heirs.
- A property size that allows for a proportional division among the siblings.
- An agreement documented by a notary, which fragments the property of the house. Each sibling will have the ownership of a specific part of the property, excluding others.
How to divide the house through the court
If the siblings cannot reach an agreement on the sale or physical division of the property, two situations can arise:
- The situation remains unchanged, with each of them maintaining their share of the entire property, having usage rights but also the obligation to allow the co-heirs to have equal use.
- One co-heir resorts to the court to request a judicial division of the shared inheritance.
The judicial division begins with a legal claim filed by their lawyer. As previously mentioned, this request does not require the consent of all the siblings; it can be initiated by one alone. However, it first necessitates mediation attempts through an authorized body to try and reach an agreement among the parties.
How does judicial division work?
The court initially assesses whether the property can be physically divided, with each sibling receiving a specific portion (in cases where no agreement is reached, a random selection process is used). This process applies, for instance, to a shared villa among two siblings where each owns 50%, and they each receive one floor if the floors are identical in size and value.
If physical division is impossible due to the nature of the property, the court proceeds with its auction. Before selling to third parties, the court determines if any of the heirs are interested in acquiring the shares of the others. Two scenarios may unfold:
More than one heir wishes to purchase the entire property. In this case, the court decides who will be granted ownership, giving priority to the heir who (even if their share is smaller) already resides in the property. In the absence of any use of the property, the court.
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