Of all the assets a parent leaves to his or her heirs, few spark more disputes among the children of the deceased than real property, especially the family home.
Family arguments may start because bequests are not defined clearly or because the estate is more complicated to administer than the executor anticipated. It is not uncommon for sibling disputes over real property to result in lawsuits.
If there is no clear direction through the will of the decedent, or if family disagreements arise, the executor will have to work with the principal heirs to determine whether to keep a family home, rent it or sell it outright. There will be many questions. Is there still a mortgage? Is the home in good repair? Does it require renovation? It is very possible that heirs may be emotional about the fate of the home and have differing opinions that they can only settle through legal means.
Determining the best solution
A family discussion, while everyone is still alive, is the most effective way to head off disputes that may arise over assets parents want to bequeath to their children. Surprising facts may come out; for example, the children may not care about inheriting a property that parents always assumed would remain in the family. They may be more interested in who gets the rare wine collection or the proceeds of an investment account.
Deciding the fate of real property and dealing with squabbling heirs represent responsibilities that an executor may find difficult to manage. In such a case, the executor can rely on a team of professionals such as an attorney, an accountant and a business appraiser, who can step in to assist. Executors have a duty to protect the assets of an estate, such as the family home, but in so doing, may need to explore legal options in order to protect their own interests and the steps they are taking to fulfill their duties.