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As the title states, a condo was bequeathed to each of an old man's three children. None of the children originally lived in the condo, nor do they currently live there. Two of the children want to sell the property, but one is being difficult (we'll call this person Jane) and wants to move into the condo instead.

Turns out, Jane is in the process of being evicted from her current home. And will soon be looking at moving in indefinitely into the bequeathed condo.

Questions:

  • Can the condo be sold without approval from all parties?

  • Is there any action that can be taken to prevent Jane from moving in and refusing to sell?

  • Can the property be sold even while Jane is living in the condo and refusing to leave?

EDIT: I appreciate those who are taking the moral high ground, but as mentioned already in a comment below.. amicable splits have already been considered, which is why the questions were regarding legal courses of action and not family counseling.

EDIT #2: Thanks all for the suggestions and legal and moral advise. Just wanted to provide the conclusion of this mess. The two sisters paid off Jane $30k a piece to take her name off the deed. Jane is using that money to pay off some debts and find a new place to live. Future plans are to sell the unit.

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    Will depend a bit on where Jane/Siblings live. I don't have time to type out a formal answer, but the 2 siblings can force the sale (here in the US at least) through a partition lawsuit. It's messy and can be very expensive and Jane may never speak to the other 2 again. – BobbyScon Jan 12 '17 at 19:45
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    Instead of selling, why don't you find our what the fair market rent for the condo is, then Jane can pay each of the other siblings 1/3 of that? – longneck Jan 13 '17 at 2:48
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    @Freiheit Jane is being evicted out of a rental, she is not in debt to the bank (that the other siblings know of). that's another reason why they're not considering offering the place to Jane as a rental. She wouldn't pay. – dasMetzger Jan 13 '17 at 14:30
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    Then they better offer the place to someone else as a rental, so all three of them get a revenue stream, perhaps enough for Jane to get a housemate share elsewhere. To leave it vacant, yet deny it to her in her hour of need, is not a defendable position. Rethink: I'm not even sure rushing to rent it suddenly now that Jane needs it is defensible. – Harper Jan 13 '17 at 18:31
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    Maybe Jane's eviction can be spun into a positive. When the condo sells, she'll have plenty of money to get a new place. – Hannover Fist Jan 14 '17 at 0:02
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This is the recipe for a legal battle, and family disputes - especially over inheritance - tend to be unpleasant. If you can avoid it through voluntary arrangement, do so. You could, for instance, try paying off the sibling in exchange for legally signing off on their interests in the property.

Ultimately, you'll probably need a lawyer, and it has a good likelihood of taking many months or years to resolve if one legal owner of the property wants to be difficult. If you really want to sell it, it would probably need to go through something like a partition suit, where you ask a judge to split up the interests in a real estate property, probably by "partition by sale". If granted, this could potentially also require eviction or lawful removal if the party refused to leave.

As a note, though, Jane would not be "squatting" if they were a partial legal owner - they would have the legal right to do just what they intend to do, as lawful heir and part owner. Her need for housing could also complicate matters, and any provisions in the will of how the property was to be used could become involved, as well as local laws or policies about forcing the sale of a part-owners primary residence. It's way beyond the ability of an internet answer to help you figure out how that could go, and there may be a lot (or little) judicial discretion.

Try to find a way to handle things amicably and fairly, realizing that everyone involved has legal rights that were given to them as part of the inheritance, and this can involve reasonable disagreement on what to do with the proceeds of the inheritance. Use the legal system as a last resort, as that is how it is intended and how it is best used. If you must use it, get a proper lawyer who knows how to handle such a case, and understand it will be costly and almost certainly require months - or years - before it ever comes to resolution. In the meantime the property might be damaged, family ties may be destroyed and beyond any easy repair, and depending on the value of the assets it might end up costing more than the whole thing was ever worth.

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    @Joe I meant that the 2 siblings wishing to sell the property would try to buy off the 3rd, then recoup the cost later through the sale. If Jane is destitute and needs a place to live, this advance money and ability to move might be sufficiently enticing, but she would certainly be free to reject it. – BrianH Jan 12 '17 at 19:55
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    @Joe The main advantage in an advance buyout is the lack of uncertainty over what she could get (after fees, subject to market timing, arguing on what offer to accept, etc), and the wait (she seems to need the money right now). If the other siblings really want the sale in a hurry they could even offer more than could be expected from 1/3 of the sale just to get her out of the picture. – BrianH Jan 12 '17 at 22:12
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    If the house is worth, say, $90,000, then Jane would be expecting to get about $30,000. But she needs a place to live now. So offering her, say, a $7,500 advance (to be taken out of her share after the sale) might entice her to take it. Someone who is in financial difficulty will often jump at an opportunity to get money immediately, especially if it is actually fair to them. – David Schwartz Jan 13 '17 at 2:58
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    @BrianDHall: I believe your answer would greatly benefit from the early buyout possibility you mention; this is a solution that would both immediately secure Jane's future (which she might reasonably be concerned about) and at the same time let the other siblings sell off the condo. – Matthieu M. Jan 13 '17 at 10:28
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    @MatthieuM. This question has become so popular that I think it would be worthwhile to expand it with some more specific guidance on how to get out of the situation without litigation. I'll see if I can't make some time to do so once I dig myself out from some deadlines. – BrianH Jan 13 '17 at 15:28
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I believe when a family member is in trouble, you circle the wagons and protect the family. That's not a universally held value, and I expect some people will disagree.

TLDR: It's an ugly situation. But family first, the legal battle is likely to be a money-loser, and the emotional cost will hurt even more.

Condos are cheap. Family is priceless.

Tearing apart a family over a simple money matter isn't even stupid.

The family should resist the urge to use the financial situation to teach Jane a "life lesson". Of course there are fears; but fears over not getting a windfall seem silly. I certainly know the rationalizations: being accommodating to the poorest family member could hypothetically be a 'slippery slide' to more dependency. The tragedy of the commons. Atlas Shrugged and the American "achieve for oneself" ideal. But realistically, turning it into a battle will not give her any needed education. The siblings are much better off shaping the situation so Jane has new experience of success in a relatively safe and sheltered environment. Learning happens there.

Besides, maybe stability, trust, and family love is the real wealth.

Treat the condo like a trust to protect/benefit the family

So that when a family member really needs it, they're assured a place to live and won't have to live in some deplorable situation, in a homeless camp or in an abusive relationship they hate simply to have a roof over their head.

In fact, if they dislike Jane, they'd rather NOT have Jane move in with them, so maybe avoiding that is worth temporarily delaying an unexpected and unneeded windfall.

So rent it to Jane, enjoy the revenue stream even if sometimes intermittent. When she moves to better digs, rent it out for a revenue stream for all of you including Jane.

Or let Jane buy them out. Carry paper.

Since she doesn't have the cash, carry paper. Then, be a chill banker since this is family. This works better for the "lenders" - rather than get a big wad of cash (which people tend to "blow" with nothing to show for it later), they get an ongoing income stream, and their first taste of the real estate biz. Hopefully not their last.

Meanwhile Jane is on the path to home ownership, which can be a great life teacher and motivator. It's quite possible she'll get excited about this and want to accelerate mortgage payments simply so she can say "Mine!" That's a great life lesson.

The direct answer

OP asked why the big detour, why didn't I answer the question directly like BrianDHall did. I didn't see any percentage in a frontal approach because I don't think it'll work.

Judges will take the view from 30,000 feet; i.e. she's going to be looking at all of the above (which is why I put it first). Judges really don't want to be the "heavy" or solve wobblers like this. Like the original Solomon, she'll seek to avoid adjudicating it. She'll probably order you back to settlement talks (with court approval this time) and an admonishment not to make any homeowners homeless and what is wrong with you people, honestly. After all, Jane is only 17% shy of this matter adjudicating itself. She will be very reluctant to make someone homeless over 17%, especially when the "injured" parties are not injured at all.

There are so many other ways to work this out; the judge isn't going to force anything until she's seen good reasons why all of them failed.

She doesn't want to decide it because the law here is a morass, there isn't a stack of favorable case law to make her decision clear. Evicting an owner merely because they're 17% shy of total control? How do the rent-control laws in the state apply here? Does being an owner bypass the normal eviction laws? Is Jane both protected by, and liable for, landlord mistakes? Jane is destitute and probably under-represented, which obliges the court to protect her somewhat. These are fertile grounds for an appeal, and the judge knows Jane can't afford one. So she'll err on the side of making the other two file the appeal!

Costs will sneak up on the two. Your lawyer says "We can get this done for $5000" and then Jane goes to legal aid and puts up a pretty good fight, and it ends up being $12,000 by the time you get spanked back into settlement by the judge. "Only $4000 more and done" -- etc. etc like an apple on a stick. And if Jane can't afford legal, you have a pro-se litigant, which can self-destruct, sure. Or can be smart and determined, with nothing better to do all day but drive up your costs. I've gone up against those - no fun.

Even worse, the judge is all onboard with breaking the two with legal costs. She considers them morally in the wrong, and wants to illustrate to them that the right thing is often the cheapest thing. What would Solomon do? And believe me, she knows exactly what the two are paying, because she was an attorney. I think this will be a total cash loss for the two.

As the Ferengi say, "there's no profit in it".

And one more thing.

Emotional energy isn't free

Obviously, this whole situation is a bottomless emotional pit-of-hell for all parties. This itself is extremely damaging to your success.

I know of a small business that was doing rather well. It was run by a detail-oriented, smart, and a bit obsessive guy - a perfect alchemy for success in that business. However, a networking provider managed to screw up a configuration for his website, in a really persistent way that affected his website for a year. Now, instead of "just get another website", he got another website called <provider>RippedMeOff.com and went full-on Don Quixote attacking this faceless corporation in a series of lawsuits and social-media campaigns. The corporation barely noticed, but it tied him up good and plenty. He failed to notice that his business just withered, and he ended up losing a half million dollars in revenue. All over a $12 web site.

Never mind the court costs. Like the failed businessman, the two should be mindful of how such a battle will impact their business opportunities, social opportunities, job performance, sense of peace and prosperity, overall happiness, and health.

The two need to ruthlessly guard those things, and not allow some diddly business with Jane to threaten them in any way whatsoever. That is a selfish view, in the best sense of the word.

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    I appreciate you providing other solutions for possibly resolving family grievances, but none of these actually answer any of the questions. there are assumptions being made that the parties involved haven't already attempted anything amicable. i kept the original question as broad as i could (with respect to background and personal details) while still being specific to the problem faced. – dasMetzger Jan 13 '17 at 5:57
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    I strongly disagree with this answer. I have seen first hand cases where A is nice like the answer suggested, but B never reciprocates (financially) and this is a huge source of grief (and financial pain) for A. – Martin Argerami Jan 13 '17 at 16:24
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    A family member being evicted from one location means that they are doubly unlikely to make any agreed upon recurring payments agreed upon. And having such a relationship (being owed regular payments) with someone with money troubles in the family is a great way to destroy any remaining family bonds. – Yakk Jan 13 '17 at 16:38
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    @MartinArgerami et.al. I have revised significantly to describe why I think the court case will sputter on merits, and end up being only destructive. This had informed my original thinking of "seek compassionate solutions". – Harper Jan 13 '17 at 17:08
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    @Yakk Jane might not pay; agree. Will stress family relationship, agree. But your objection implies that family bonds are important... so an answer that puts Jane homeless is right out. Simple fact is, the will carelessly created a hard problem, and they're good'n'stuck with it. There's no magic answer. Besides, all families fight. If not about X, about Y. With equal intensity regardless of X or Y, ever notice that? They'll fight over clouds in heaven. It's really about bonding. – Harper Jan 13 '17 at 17:59
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Understand that Jane has every right to live in the condo, and forcing her out would require non-trivial and potentially costly steps. With that in mind, I would consider offering Jane a bigger share of sale profits, if that helps to make her accept the sale. I don't know how much your condo is worth, but perhaps a 40%/30%/30% offer (with Jane's share being 40%) will settle the matters and preserve your relationships, while a legal procedure costing you 6% of the property value is not unheard of, and will probably alienate Jane from you for a long time.

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