Dear Moneyist,

I am one of three children, and we are all 60-plus years old. A vacation property that belonged to my parents is now in my mother’s name and my late father’s three children’s names. My sister scoffs at me when I suggest selling our family vacation property. She, her husband and kids go there all the time, and have taken over the place like they own it. They had it logged — without even mentioning it to me or my brother — and have paid the taxes and utilities for five years.

Also see: ‘My husband’s kids hate me and refused to come to our wedding, yet he is leaving them all his property.’ How can I negotiate to secure my future?

I used the place for over 30 years, but now that I am divorced I no longer have any interest in it, nor do my kids. I have discussed with my sister about her buying me and my brother out, but she refuses, saying they can’t afford to do that. Frankly, I could use the money. My mother can’t understand why I don’t love the place, but I don’t feel any attachment to it now that my father is gone. Do I cause a rift in the family by insisting on my share, or are my brother and I entitled to anything?

Ready to Move On

Dear Ready,

How much do you need the money?

A word of caution: If you force your sister to sell it or convince her to buy you out, you may cause a family schism that could last for decades, generations, millennia. This isn’t just a piece of property to your sister. This is part of your family’s legacy that presumably has a lot of happy memories — she is creating her own, and probably wants to pass those down to her children. It’s not a simple financial transaction. Before you act, make sure it’s worth it.

Also see: As a baby boomer, I didn’t grow up with this culture of entitlement — do I have to leave my estate to my children or spouse?

If all your names are on the deed as joint tenants in common, you may have a good chance at selling the home whether or not your sister wants to, and/or forcing her hand so she buys you out. (I’m curious to know how much it costs to log/renovate a vacation home. I see one estimate that puts the price tag at anything from $15,000 to $100,000.) If by logging, you mean allowing a third party to cut down trees on the property, that should have been discussed.

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If you all have survivorship rights, I don’t foresee any court in the land overturning that. You will be stuck with the property, and will have to stand on the sidelines and watch your sister and her family use it. Another point? Do you all have the same share or does your mother own 50%? Proceed with caution. Assuming your children are in their 30s and don’t yet have children, they may change their minds about this property when they have families of their own.

Sit down with your sister and run through the finances. There’s a big difference between “can’t pay” and “won’t pay.”

Also see: I discovered through Ancestry.com that my biological father is someone else — can I claim an inheritance as his heir?

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2020-01-11