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House Calls: Lake House Inherited

Edith Lank on

Dear Edith: Six siblings inherited a lake house in 1986. It has been enjoyed by all families for years. However, now there is a need for extensive improvements. No one wants to put the money into it, but no one wants to see it go for taxes.

Four of the six want to sell the house and get their inheritance. One wants to buy it and give everyone her share; she would do all improvements and then allow it to be used by the others for vacations.

But one sibling won't agree to sell his share. He verbally agreed to sell last September. Now he says he never said that.

Do you know what the options would be? Have you ever seen a situation where one sibling could be forced to sell? Everyone wants to see this resolved, and soon, as this has been going on for a couple of years. -- X.

Answer: When it comes to the sale of real estate, verbal agreements are not enforceable.

Any co-owner of real property has the right to go to court and request a forced sale. One lawyer told me, "It's like foreclosing on yourself." The property is sold at an all-cash public auction, which is not likely to yield full value. Doing that won't do much for family harmony.


In any event, it's time to consult a lawyer. Perhaps a letter from a lawyer mentioning the possibility would persuade your holdout to reconsider. Or, in the interest of a more peaceful solution, you might contact a professional mediator.

Timeshare Again

Ms. Lank: In 1985, my wife and I were wooed by an Orlando timeshare developer. He said his company was opening its latest timeshare only 15 minutes from the new Disney World. It would be a sure moneymaker; it could be easily rented and sold; and the company was opening a resale department.

Years later, my wife and I divorced. We shared the timeshare costs and vacation weeks. This worked reasonably well until now. We are getting up in age and don't travel anymore, and the costs are getting more difficult to pay each year. Plus, thinking ahead, we don't want this millstone to pass to our children. (We have asked, and neither of them want it).


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