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Family Wills Gone Bad/Greed
Old 07-31-2007, 08:45 AM   #1
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Family Wills Gone Bad/Greed

I figured this was a great place for getting some feed back from some folks that might have some knowledge of this.

Background: Hopefully not too hard to follow

Family Tree of Smith Family:

Mr. Smith (deceased) and Mrs Smith (deceased)
3 Children

Son 1
Married
2 Daughters

Son 2
Married
2 daughters

Daughter (recently deceased)
Childless


Son 2 has a crazy(not her fault) mean-spirited (her choice) wife. This woman lives in a huge beautiful house that no one except her husband and 2 children have ever been in that I am aware of even though all the family live within walking distance. To give an example of the mentality of the woman: The last week of her mothers life, her and her brother had to be forcibly removed from her hospital as they were having screaming match in her hospital room over some property division that she had obviously not spelled out clearly enough.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith equally and fairly divided up their money, acreage and several house amongst their 3 children before their deaths.

The Daughter received 3 houses and a acreage. She let one of the daughters of Son 1 live in one of the houses for 1 year while her house was being built. This angered Son 2's wife and daughters to no end and to say that there was a blow up on her/their part is an gross understatement.

Daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Smith being childless had it in her will that the money/acreage and 3 houses would be equally owned by her four nieces (the granddaughters). The will was written several years ago before the blow up. Here of course is where the problems arise. The money can be divided up of course but Son 2's wife has already stated that she will refuse to let her daughters pay their portion of the property taxes (many thousands of dollars a year) and insurance on said property and that she will let the government come and get it before she lets them pay one cent. The daughters of this woman will oblige whatever she says.

Obviously, the right thing to do would be to sell the property and split the proceeds but they will not agree with this either.

Any advice?
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:11 AM   #2
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How old are the nieces? How are you involved?
If the nieces are of legal age, I would recommend that they hire a mediator to work out a solution with them (no parents involved).
If they are still minors, I would recommend that the brothers hire a mediator to work out a solution with them (no mothers involved, as the property comes from the fathers side).
I would also make sure if a heir could really refuse selling.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:17 AM   #3
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I am daughter of Son1. My sister lived in the house rent free while her house was being built. All four grandchildren are in their late 30's early 40's. The mediator has been thought of, but the other 2 grandchildren refuse to speak in any form or fashion to anyone in our family. They are afraid of their mother and that she may cut them off. I can't tell you where their father (my uncle) is in all this, except to say he is obviously a bit spineless not to stand up to his wife. But I guess he is got to live with her.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:28 AM   #4
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It's tough to give you advice, b/c it doesn't sound like there is anything you personally can do. If your uncle, aunt and cousins won't even speak to you, I don't know that there is anything you can do. Seems to me that your only option is to pay the insurance/taxes until such time as they are sold and then, unfortunately, split the proceeds with your cousins. Yeah, it's not fair, but you're still getting 1/4 of the sale for property you never paid anything for (except the taxes/insurance for however many months it takes to sell). That is still not a bad gig for you. Have you or your parents offered to buy the places, if that is an option? Maybe they'd sell their shares to you and your sister below market value?

I've got some advice for your uncle though: Grow a sack! Sheesh.

Edited for clarity.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:35 AM   #5
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I Seems to me that your only option is to pay the insurance/taxes until such time as they are sold and then, unfortunately, split the proceeds with your cousins. Yeah, it's not fair, but you're still getting 1/4 of the sale for property you never paid anything for (except the taxes/insurance for however many months it takes to sell).
They refuse to agree to sell too unfortunately.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:47 AM   #6
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^^^That's insane! I would definitely go to an attorney. There has got to be something you can do. It may involve a lawsuit, but if that is what you have to do, I'd do it. JMO.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:13 AM   #7
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Is there a probate going on? If not, start one and get someone, not from the troubled family, to be personal representative. The PR can then sell the assets and split the money as per the will. The PR will pay expenses like property taxes from estate assets.

If the probate is over and the properties were not sold as part of the probate, but instead deeded to the nieces, then you can start a partition action requesting that the court order the sale of the properties and division of the proceeds.

See a lawyer asap.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:30 AM   #8
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Yes, probate is over. So the court will order the sale of the houses and property against the will of 2 of the owners? I didn't know they would do that, that is indeed good news.

Once they said they were unwilling to sale or pay taxes or insurance we realized we were in trouble. My dad, optimist that he is thought that he could smooth things over but it doesn't look like it is gonna happen.

Yes, a call to an attorney seems to be in order. I hate that it is coming to this.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:39 AM   #9
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Yes, a court can sell against the will of some of the owners in a partition action. Another option for the court is to divide up the property so each person gets a different piece of similar value, if that is possible.

Unfortunately, these family things can get expensive. No chance of you and your sister meeting up with your cousins with no elders involved and have a heart to heart talk about this?

(In any event, I reiterate the importance of seeing a lawyer)
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Old 07-31-2007, 11:37 AM   #10
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Unfortunately, these family things can get expensive. No chance of you and your sister meeting up with your cousins with no elders involved and have a heart to heart talk about this?
In the meantime it's probably better to make sure the taxes & fees get paid, even if it's coming out of the pockets of the cooperative heirs, than to have to deal with liens & possible foreclosures.

Everyone knows the advantage of achieving FI while working, but troubled inheritances like this are another stealth advantage of FI. When the problems like this can be seen coming from a long ways off, it's a relief to be able to turn one's back on the whole thing while secure in the knowledge that it's not necessary for one's well-being.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:06 PM   #11
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The money my aunt left will cover the property taxes etc for years but it still gets my panties all waded up that they could refuse to pay for years and years, then eventually get their portion upon the sale assuming that they ever would agree to sale. The fact that the courts can force them to sale is a big load off our minds.

My dad is going to take care of contacting an attorney for us to press the issue. My bet is that my aunt (and uncle) will end up making us an offer of the properties before the courts order the sale. She doesn't like neighbors and if it goes on the open market then they wouldn't be able to control who bought it. They would probably rather let the houses rot away than sell or rent them out. That is what happened to her mother's house. It has been 10 years since she passed and the house has been empty ever since. An empty house just goes downhill very quickly.

I sincerely appreciate the advice.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:25 PM   #12
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Martha, if JustMe and her sister pay 100% of the taxes and fees wouldn't they be able to get that money back from the sale proceeds that was supposed to be paid by the others?
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Old 07-31-2007, 01:18 PM   #13
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Maybe yes, maybe no. (Typical lawyer answer) It depends on state law, custom and the judge.
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Old 07-31-2007, 04:33 PM   #14
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This could have been handled during the probate of your Aunt's estate (and I'm assuming your Aunt's husband predeceased her) where a lawyer representing your interests could have tried to negotiate a "buy-out" of your cousin's interests. Your cousins could have renunciated or quit-claimed their interests for a price to you and your sister. Now, this has to be handled by a partition suit initiated by you or your sister which would result in a forced-sale under Court supervision or by a negotatied settlement among the cousins.

I think from a negotiating standpoint, and it's hard to tell which buttons not to push from your postings, you need to get the cousins talking among themselves and need to engage them. You might want to consider getting rid of the emotional baggage that impedes rational thinking, if you can, like your cousins' idea that your sister got unfair benefits from living in your Aunt's house rent free or that your cousins have indicated they won't pay a nickle of the taxes.

I think if you look at this rationally, this is quite a nice inheritance; don't sweat the small stuff and stay focused. I'm going through a similar exercise with my own siblings and if I bring too much emotional baggage to the table, I will easily lose sight of the prize. In my case, I'm dealing with some down-right double dealing dirty stuff, but I can't let that obscure my thinking. Sometimes, our emotions get the better of us, but if we can lower the emotional content, rational people tend to act rationally. Of course, if you have jerks on the other side, then all bets are off!
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Old 07-31-2007, 05:16 PM   #15
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This could have been handled during the probate of your Aunt's estate (and I'm assuming your Aunt's husband predeceased her) where a lawyer representing your interests could have tried to negotiate a "buy-out" of your cousin's interests. Your cousins could have renunciated or quit-claimed their interests for a price to you and your sister. Now, this has to be handled by a partition suit initiated by you or your sister which would result in a forced-sale under Court supervision or by a negotatied settlement among the cousins.

I think from a negotiating standpoint, and it's hard to tell which buttons not to push from your postings, you need to get the cousins talking among themselves and need to engage them. You might want to consider getting rid of the emotional baggage that impedes rational thinking, if you can, like your cousins' idea that your sister got unfair benefits from living in your Aunt's house rent free or that your cousins have indicated they won't pay a nickle of the taxes.

I think if you look at this rationally, this is quite a nice inheritance; don't sweat the small stuff and stay focused. I'm going through a similar exercise with my own siblings and if I bring too much emotional baggage to the table, I will easily lose sight of the prize. In my case, I'm dealing with some down-right double dealing dirty stuff, but I can't let that obscure my thinking. Sometimes, our emotions get the better of us, but if we can lower the emotional content, rational people tend to act rationally. Of course, if you have jerks on the other side, then all bets are off!


My father, the eternal optimist, thought that they would come to their senses. He has tried to talk to his brother a couple times but my aunt grabs the phone and hangs up on him.

My sister and I have both tried to make contact, but they will not answer the phone or answer emails. I even tried doing *67 so my number won't come up but they have their phone set so that it wont take blocked calls. The property that there house is on is completely fenced in, no way to just knock on their door.

It is a fairly large acreage that we are talking about and 3 pretty decent houses. My sister and I do not really have the money to buy them out but my parents do and have made the offer via the USPS. They sent back a letter with one word on it. NO! So my dad called his brother when my sister saw my aunt leave the house alone (yes, it's come to that) and asked if he would like to purchase our part then. He said he would talk to his wife and get back to us. She called later that evening and was yelling and screaming about my sister getting a free ride and thus we need to pay the property taxes and insurance. She even went so far as to call my sister a few choice names. She said we were all plotting against her and that we will all burn in hell. (I assume that her insanity is showing) In reality, my sister and her husband made numerous improvements to the property during their time living there and left the house much more valuable that when they moved in.

As far as the cousins go, one is a greedy thing like her mother and refuses to talk to us. The other lives with her husband and kids next door to her parents in a house they built for her and they keep her children for her during working hours. My aunt has her completely under her control with threats to kick her out of the house and cut her off. The money/property my aunt left is small compared to what she will receive from her parents one day.

The really sad thing is that we all live on adjoining property, see each other on the road or grocery stores sometimes and they just look the other way as if they can't see us. It is funny but really sad when you think about it.

All I have to say is THANK GOD MY MOM IS AN ONLY CHILD!!!
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Old 08-01-2007, 07:22 AM   #16
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She called later that evening and was yelling and screaming about my sister getting a free ride and thus we need to pay the property taxes and insurance.
You might be dealing with a jerk, in which case, the only way to deal with a jerk is not to deal with a jerk. Then again, you might be dealing with someone who just can't get over her perception that you robbed the family jewels when your sister got a "free ride" no matter how much she and her husband improved the property. Legal fees for a partition-suit and forced-sale could be expensive and there's no guarantee that a court would permit the sale to one or two of the co-owners given the likely objections of another co-owner -- I just don't know the law in this area, but if your Aunt continues to act the way she's acting, then her objective in a partition suit might be to derail any perceived "gain" that might inure to you and sister, who got that free ride from the family and refuses to pay taxes and insurance on the property.

An outside mediator would really be helpful and you might be able to request that once a lawsuit were filed against the other side of your family. Then again, you might want to grovel before your Aunt, telling her that she's so right about your sister getting a free-ride, that you and your sister have come to the realization that your family should pay for the insurance and taxes to make up for the lost rent that was due your deceased Aunt, that you've looked into a partition-suit and that this would be extremely expensive for everyone as the legal expenses and fees might come from the sale of the properties to outsiders, and that the best alternative for the family is to try to work this out within the family. Maybe your Mom should begin that conversation with your Aunt before this gets out of control through litigation?
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Old 08-01-2007, 02:45 PM   #17
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Sorry to say, but IMO you got a nut case on your hand and NO rational approach will work...

You have to discount what the property is worth to buy peace from this nut job....

So, figure out what it is worth, pay the taxes, insurance etc... discount it by a percentage and offer it to them.... hopefully they will want to buy with this bargain amount....

OR, you dig in and say 'screw them' and file the lawsuit.. and both sides lose...

Your choice... lose - win or Lose - Lose (with lawyers winning)...
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Old 08-01-2007, 03:46 PM   #18
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Texas, the lawyers don't win either. People hate paying for this kind of suit and you often end up discounting your fees.

Who would like to be the cousin's lawyer? Not me.
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Old 08-01-2007, 04:44 PM   #19
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Texas, the lawyers don't win either. People hate paying for this kind of suit and you often end up discounting your fees.

Who would like to be the cousin's lawyer? Not me.
I am sure that there are some bad things to being a lawyer... but in this case they are the only ones that will make money..... now, maybe not as much as you could doing something else... but they are the only 'winner'..

OR... lets just say they are the only ones getting compensation for their trouble...
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Old 08-01-2007, 04:47 PM   #20
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Martha, You got that right about most practioners not wanting these type of cases. The emotional content generally drives these cases and you can have an unreasonable client that will push you to the outer-frontiers of legal ethics. It's a family law practice case, essentially. My wife stopped handling similar "heir property cases" many years ago because of the complexity associated with quieting screwed-up title, compounded by a lot of emotional angst from all sorts of uncles, aunts, cousins and other relatives. And most lawyers would take a very hefty retainer to represent either party in the OP's dispute.
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