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Relative Sold His Share of Home: What Can We Do?

RE Q&A: It’s complicated. Find out who owns what by examining your home’s ownership history, its “chain of title,” and also probate your deceased relatives’ estates.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My parents bought a home years ago with my older sister. They lived there and raised six more daughters. Our parents passed away, and a few years later, my older sister passed, leaving behind my nephew. One of my sisters has been living in the house with her family. Several of my other siblings have also passed away since then. My nephew recently sold what he considered his part of the home to an investor without consulting anyone. What are our rights? — Andrea

Answer: This is a complex situation. From your question, neither your parents nor older sister planned for their demise, nor does it seem that any of their estates were probated.

The answer to your question will depend on how the deed was drafted, whether your deceased relatives had wills, and whether anything was done about their estates.

You will need to examine your home’s ownership history, called its “chain of title,” to determine who owns what. You will also need to probate your deceased relative’s estates to unwind this.

Assuming no one had a will and no one probated anyone’s estate, your parents owned half of the property, and your older sister owned the other half. When both of your parents passed, their half would have descended to their children alive at the time. This included your older sister.

Assuming seven surviving children, your older sister would have owned her half, plus the one-seventh share she inherited. The remaining six siblings would each own one-seventh of the property. Later, when your sister passed, her son inherited her portion.

Taking this a step further, when any of your remaining siblings passed, their portion of the house would have gone to their spouse or children; if they did not have any, their share would have gone to their living siblings.

Everyone who owns a portion of the house, including your nephew, can sell their part of the home to whomever they want.

However, it is rare anyone would want to purchase part of someone else’s home. Each partial owner can also force the sale of the entire property by filing a “partition” lawsuit, with each owner getting the rightful share of the proceeds.

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