Dear Newsweek, My parents passed away in 2021, both in the same year. They were survived by me and my four siblings. They left their house in the will for the five of us to be shared equally.
My brother (the only son) and his wife have been living with my parents since they got married. Mom helped them to look after their only daughter, who is now married and moved out seven years ago. According to my brother and his wife, it was my mother that asked them to move in with my parents. However, mom told me when she was alive that she had actually asked them to get their own place, but they had both asked if they could continue to live with mom and dad, because they wanted to live in bigger house. Mom didn’t have the heart to reject them and said as long as everyone in the house could get along, they could live there.
During the 40 years they lived with my parents, my brother had some marital problems. About 15 years ago there was an incident which cause his wife to begin behaving quite irresponsibly, treating my parents’ house like a hotel and being disrespectful. My brother’s wife was unhappy but wouldn’t divorce him because she was enjoying the house and lifestyle. My poor parents put up with this until they passed away.
Roughly three years before they passed away, my father unexpectedly asked me to help him to sell the house because he wanted to give us all the profits in cash. He hadn’t thought it all the way through and had nowhere else to go if we sold the house so I convinced him to stay and assured him we would all work together and do the right thing when the time comes.
Flash forward back to now, and my elder sister and my brother are joint executors. My elder sister, myself and another sister all agree that we want to sell the house according to my parents will, and split it equally. My youngest sister has no opinion.
My brother and his wife however, have been bombarding us, shouting and screaming that they both have no intention of shifting,
This is doing my head in and all three of us are feeling very helpless!! Taking him to court is the last thing we want and will try to avoid it but we’re running out of options.
This is doing my head in and three of us are feeling very helpless!! Taking him to court is the last thing we want and we try to avoid it at all cost!!
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Mediation Is Quicker and Less Expensive Than Litigation
Haitham (Sam) Amin is a trial attorney and a social media legal influencer based in California. He is the founder and principal attorney of Amin Law, P.C. S
I have a proposed solution for your legal woes—mediation!
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is often preferred over litigation for several reasons. First, mediation is typically quicker and less expensive than litigation. Mediation sessions can be scheduled more quickly than court dates, and the process is less formal and less expensive than a trial.
Another advantage of mediation is that it allows the parties to come to a mutually acceptable resolution—(hopefully). In litigation, the outcome is decided by a judge or jury, and one party may feel that they did not receive a fair outcome.
Furthermore, mediation can be beneficial for ongoing relationships, such as in business or family disputes. In litigation, the relationship between the parties can become damaged and it can be hard to rebuild. In mediation, the parties work together to find a solution that is acceptable to both of them, which can help to preserve the relationship.
Overall, mediation is often a better option than litigation for resolving disputes because it is quicker, less expensive, more private, allows for a mutually acceptable resolution, gives the parties control over the process, and can help preserve relationships.
The catch: Getting everyone to agree to mediate.
One suggestion: Invite your siblings to dinner at the family’s favorite childhood restaurant—the one where all of you used to dine at with your parents. During the meal, make the suggestion that mediation would be the better option for the reasons outlined above.
You Can Still Be in Control of the Situation
Peter J. Glennon is a trust and estate litigation attorney at the Glennon Law Firm, in New York.
Family disputes after loved ones pass are always the most challenging, even more so for siblings when parents pass away. The challenges tend to arise during the grieving process often when long-harbored feelings come to the surface among family members.
Often parents are the authority in a family, making the decision but when they are no longer there, adult children may develop false confidence in their respective positions and believe they are driven by the principle of “doing what mom and dad would want.” This is especially common with the older sibling.
This can lead to disagreements among the siblings and sometimes a dividing line of “us versus them” among differing siblings. This can be made more challenging when one or two siblings are the fiduciary or executor of the estate.
If it is any comfort, your situation while incredibly frustrating, is not uncommon. However, you do have options and you can still be in control of the situation.
I understand that nobody wants to go to court. It can exasperate the current tensions and cost time, money, and be emotionally draining during an already difficult time.
I believe your best move is to work with your Estate Attorney or to hire a Trusts & Estates (T&E) litigation attorney. You need legal advice about your jurisdiction’s relevant procedural and substantive law, but with that advice, you can start to devise a strategy to attain your person goals.
For your informational purposes, you might want to seek legal and strategic advice on the following topics:
- Valuing the house
- Selling the house
- Selling the house to your brother residing there
- Selling the house to your brother and holding the mortgage
- Leasing the house to your brother and his wife, treating them like any other tenant
If none of the above works, then you must know what the law in your jurisdiction provides for in the Estate context and/or real estate law. There are options, including possibly evicting your brother and his wife or seeking a real property partition.
These are all considerations for you to discuss with an attorney.
Avoiding court is possible if the proper message is communicated effectively, perhaps one that signals respect and understanding of the brother’s perspective and needs without appearing pushy, bossy, or controlling.