Dear Quentin,

My mother passed away six years ago. She was divorced, and owned her home. I have six living siblings, four of whom reside in the home. The four residing in the house are trying to force me to sign over my rights to my mom’s house.

My older brother who resides in the house pays the taxes. I was told if I will not help get the house renovated and help pay the taxes, I have to sign my portion over to him. I believe if I help pay the taxes and renovate the house, I should receive monthly rent or they can buy me out.

Quentin, what are my legal rights? Is it true if my brother can show proof that he has paid more than his share of the property taxes, he can force me to sign my rights away unless I pay him my portion of the taxes?

I do not want to sign away the only thing my mom left me. How can I settle this argument with my siblings and keep my share of my mother’s home?

Tired of Fighting

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Tired,

Your situation reminds me of those breakage-warning signs you see in stores selling tchotchkes, except this one goes something like this: “If I live here, if I’m bold, if I put my trinkets in the window, I say sold.” That’s not how life works. It’s not how inheritance works. And it’s not how probate works.

Your siblings are wrong, wrong, wrong. They have no right to delay probate. They have no right to live in the home as if it is their own and lay claim to it. And they have no right to force you to pay for renovations while they live there rent-free, and give you an ultimatum.

You need to contact your family attorney or an estate attorney. He or she will issue a partition action for the probate court to force the sale of your mother’s property; the taxes, however, should be paid from your mother’s estate and, if not, the children or beneficiaries must pay for them.

‘It seems unlikely that your siblings will agree to you buying them out and, if they did, they will continue to bully you.’

With a partition action, “the parties will typically get appraisals of the property and see if they can work out some form of arrangement to sell the property on the open market, rather than by a judicial auction,” according to RK Law, an estate attorney firm in New York.

When the parties cannot work out the situation, the court will appoint a referee, says Regina Kiperman of RK Law. “The court, after a ‘trial,’ will order a judicial sale of the property, and have a referee compute how much each party gets as and for the net proceeds of sale.”

It seems unlikely that your siblings will agree to you buying them out — and if they did, they would continue to bully you into paying less for your share and/or paying money for other renovations, money you would in all likelihood never see again.

Typically, a parent can bequeath a property to their children through a revocable living trust, a transfer-on-death deed (roughly half of U.S. states permit this) or, at the very least, make a will. You don’t want to spend your life fighting over rent and unpaid bills with your siblings.

This is a cautionary tale in how not to leave a property to siblings. They have treated your mother’s house like the Wild West. It’s not. There are laws in your state to manage the fair transfer of this property. It’s not some kind of land grab.

You need to take the appropriate legal action to resolve this situation.

Otherwise, it could drag on for years.

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