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With inherited real estate, are ownership percentages equal?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Real estate transactions

Situations can get a bit complicated when multiple people inherit real estate. This could happen when a parent leaves a family home to multiple siblings, for example. It is also very common with vacation properties. Even if all of the siblings already have their own home, they may share a cottage or a cabin.

In these situations, ownership percentages can be divided up in various ways. Much of this is simply up to the person who writes the estate plan. For instance, they could explicitly say that one person is supposed to have 90% ownership, while the other siblings will all take a much more minor role. This would mean that everyone is still involved, but one person may have decision-making power. 

They could also decide to divide the ownership equally, meaning that the siblings have to work together to make the decisions about things like paying property taxes, maintenance and whether or not to sell the property. One person is not allowed to take certain steps – like initiating a sale – without the approval of the others.

What if the estate plan doesn’t say?

There are many cases in which an estate plan will assign real estate to a group of beneficiaries, but it won’t say anything about how ownership should be divided. In a case like that, the court will typically assign equal ownership percentages to all involved. If there were five siblings who all received their parents’ vacation cabin, for instance, they would all get 20%. Since this is the default, a parent who wants to deviate from that allotment would have to do so in their estate plan.

Situations like this can become very complex and sometimes lead to disputes. Those involved must be well aware of their legal options.