practice areas

Two siblings both say that they should get the same asset when their parents die. The parents do not have a will or did not specify what should be done with that asset in the will.

For instance, perhaps the will mentions their bank accounts, investments, retirement plans and other financial assets, but it does not mention what should be done with the family home. Both siblings want to keep it. They cannot determine what to do with it, and you can’t just split up a physical asset. What now?

The easiest way to resolve things is simply to sell the house. This works with any physical assets that have a resale value. Liquidate the asset, split the money between the two and put an end to the disagreement. You may not be able to divide the asset itself, but you can always divide its value.

There is an inherent problem here, however. The asset may have more value to the siblings than it actually has on the market.

Maybe that house is only worth $150,000. The children both have million-dollar homes. They’re not fighting over the house because they want the money. They’re fighting over it because they have childhood memories of growing up there. They have a sentimental attachment. They don’t want to lose that. In a case like this — again, the same could be true for other types of assets — selling it may leave both feeling unhappy with the outcome.

That’s when estate disputes get very complicated. It is critical for all involved to know their legal rights.