inheriting a house with siblings

Inheriting a House With Siblings: What Happens & How to Split Property

Inheriting a house with siblings can be challenging. To begin, emotions are likely to run high, and if one or more siblings can’t afford to keep the property while the others have a sentimental attachment, things can get very complicated very quickly.

Having multiple owners is more difficult, but you do have options. In fact, many siblings in this position choose to sell the home to a real estate investor who makes a fair cash offer and allows them to put the issue behind them quickly.

Inheriting a house with siblings or multiple owners?

If you’re wondering what happens when you inherit a house with a sibling, you’ll be glad to know that this guide to inheriting a house will leave you better prepared to reach to a mutual agreement that serves everyone’s best interests.

When multiple siblings inherit a house, one of the most important points to keep in mind is working together with your siblings. While it’s not uncommon to have a sentimental attachment to a home, the cost of keeping it in the family can be significant. Finding the right balance is worth the effort in terms of keeping the peace in your family.

What to do when there are problems with siblings settling estates

Inheriting a home with a brother or sister – or any group of siblings – and coming to an agreement regarding how best to proceed can be exceptionally challenging since no one sibling has full ownership.

To begin, inheritances come with a lot of emotional baggage that must be sorted out and that can be a real hurdle. Siblings fighting over an inherited house is often a sign that they haven’t worked through the difficult grieving process involved, and they might be at different places on their journeys.

To make matters that much more difficult, the legalities can also be quite complex. Problems when two siblings inherit a house that’s in the family are not uncommon, and proceeding with caution is advised.   

Probate problems with siblings

The ownership of an inherited property in California  can be established via a transfer of death (TOD) deed, which allows the home to bypass probate and flow directly to the beneficiaries upon the owner’s passing. if your lost loved one did not transfer ownership to you and your siblings with a TOD deed, it means selling the house in probate, which comes with considerable challenges.

If you and your siblings are the beneficiaries of an estate that includes a home, the executor can sell a probate house, but the legal requirements are exacting and include:

  • Having the house appraised 
  • Seeking permission to sell the property from the probate court
  • Putting the home up for sale
  • Petitioning the probate court for a hearing confirming the sale upon finding a buyer
  • Arranging for a deposit from the buyer
  • Advertising the sale – as well as the price – in a local newspaper
  • Having open bidding on the home during a probate court hearing for this purpose
  • Refunding the original deposit if you sell the home during open bidding
  • Completing the sale, and funneling the full amount into the estate fund, which will be divided between you according to your lost loved one’s wishes

It’s also possible for the estate executor to sell the house without the court’s approval, as long as all the beneficiary siblings agree, which can be a tall order. 

What happens when one sibling is living in an inherited property and refuses to sell?

One of the more common inheritance issues with siblings is when one sibling lives in a jointly inherited house and wants to continue living there.

Selling inherited property in California is legally complicated, and if there is no TOD deed, the probate court must follow the decedent’s wishes as expressed by their will. If there is no will, however, the probate court must follow California’s laws of intestate succession.

Often, this means each sibling owning an equal share of the property – unless the will states otherwise – and it isn’t unusual for one sibling to remain a hold out on selling – especially if they’re living in the home.

Selling the home to the sibling who lives in it

One option if your sibling lives in the house you’ve inherited and doesn’t want to sell is allowing them to buy the home and splitting the profits between you and your other siblings.

The sibling who remains in the home can obtain an estate loan of their own to buy the rest of you out, or you can make a private arrangement and have your sibling pay the rest of you off over time. This is a much less drastic approach than a partition suit. 

Forcing the sale of the inherited home

In California, any co-owner of inherited property, including a home, can force its sale by initiating what is known as a partition action. Once the action is approved by the court, a partition referee is tasked with selling the home and splitting the profits.

The partition referee has broad discretion in the matter, which includes having the authority to change the locks in response to uncooperative co-owners like your sibling. It’s important to recognize that forcing the sale of the home you’ve inherited together is likely to be alienating, and finding a more cooperative approach is generally preferable. 

Clearing the house before probate

If you and your siblings have inherited a home together, it feels natural to go in and divide those items with sentimental value between you prior to the probate process, but in the State of California, removing items before probate isn’t allowed.

Anything that your loved one left to you in their last will and testament will ultimately be yours, and those items that aren’t specifically assigned to anyone will be resolved during the probate process, which often means an estate sale.

How to divide inherited property between siblings when there are no arguments

Dividing property between siblings is far less emotionally challenging when everyone is in agreement, but how do you divide inherited property between siblings? There are a few primary options to consider.

1. Sale of inherited property split between siblings

Selling inherited property with multiple owners is naturally more challenging, but an excellent option if you’ve inherited a house together with your siblings is selling to a real estate investor who pays cash for properties like yours.

When you sell the house you’re inheriting to a cash buyer, it streamlines the process and allows you and your siblings to quickly split the income by eliminating many of the steps you’d have to address if you sold your inheritance through traditional channels, which includes putting the house on the market. 

There are a variety of pros and cons of a cash offer on a house, but some of  the primary pros include the following:

  • You can sell the house quickly before you’ve gone through probate, as long as all your siblings know and are on board with the plan.
  • You can skip all the prep work that comes with selling a house, including being responsible for putting the house on the market.
  • You can avoid the maintenance costs associated with keeping a house in the family for sentimental reasons.
  • By selling the house quickly, each sibling’s share is readily available to them, which liquidates each person’s stake in the property and can make moving forward less emotionally fraught.  

The primary con when it comes to selling an inherited house with siblings for cash is that you’re unlikely to get the highest price. However, the convenience of selling the house quickly and the savings you experience in relation to making repairs, readying the home for viewings, and beyond can more than make up for the difference. 

At SoCal Home Buyers, we’re experienced real estate investors who implement an abbreviated process that leads to fair offers. Just give us a call,  and we’ll schedule a convenient time to send our in-house inspector over, which will culminate in a cash offer. If you accept our offer, you and your siblings will have the cash in your possession in as little as 24 to 48 hours. 

2. Buyout siblings share of house fairly

If you are invested in retaining ownership of the house, you can make an offer to buy out your sibling’s portion of the property. The best path forward in this situation is making a fair offer on your siblings’ share of the home that is based on the property’s worth and how much is saved by reaching an agreement rather than by selling on the market.

How to buy out a sibling on shared property

The transfer of property between siblings in California will not eliminate the need for a property tax reassessment the way it would for a property transfer directly from parent to child, but the process need not be complicated.

Taking out an estate loan to buy out siblings

The most straightforward approach to buying out another sibling – or siblings – is obtaining an estate loan or short-term trust loan. This allows you to transfer your siblings’ share of ownership to you as smoothly as possible.

Buying out your siblings over time

Your siblings may have no argument with selling their share in the home via a payment plan – especially if they don’t have immediate financial needs and consider the sale an investment. Often, siblings are pleased to keep the home in the family, which can make selling to another sibling an easier decision and may leave yours more open to a purchase plan. 

3. Selling share of inherited property to sibling

If the tables are turned, and your sibling is interested in buying out your share in the home you’ve inherited together, it’s a good idea to weigh your options carefully.

If you’re ready to sell or transfer the asset to them, options include your sibling obtaining an estate loan and buying out your share upfront or setting up a payment plan with you – depending upon the circumstances involved.

Regardless, the process of either selling your ownership in the home to your siblings or buying out there ownership in the home is far less complicated than it would be if you listed the property on the market.

4. Dividing property between siblings without a sale

If you and your siblings decide to divide the property between you without a sale, your basic options include joint ownership of inherited property – or joint tenancy – and tenancy in common.

A joint tenancy agreement means that all of you retain an equal interest in the home. If one sibling dies, for example, that sibling’s ownership in the home will be divided between the rest of you equally. Further, none of you can sell your portion of the property without permission from the others.

Tenancy in common, on the other hand, allows each sibling to use their share of the property as they wish, which includes either selling or transferring their ownership to someone else. As such, if one of your siblings dies, their share in the property will pass to their heirs according to either their will or California’s laws of intestacy if there is no will.

The siblings own property together and one (or more) lives in the property

If one sibling wants to live in an inherited house and the rest of you are not interested in selling the property, renting the place to them is an option.

In this situation, you’ll need to calculate the percentage of rent owed based on that sibling’s ownership in the home. The same is true if more than one sibling wants to continue residing in the inherited house.

Co-owning a house with sibling and renting it out

Another option is continuing to own the inherited house with your siblings and renting it out to a traditional renter. This can serve as a workable compromise when emotions are running high in regard to selling the family home but you can’t afford the upkeep and maintenance involved. The rent you bring in should more than cover the cost of upkeep, and you can divide the remaining amount between all of you.

Using the home as a vacation home

If the home you’ve inherited is a vacation home or is located in an ideal vacation spot, you may want to hold on to the property to be used as a vacation home that you all share. You can all agree on how to schedule the time that each of you will spend there and when you will come together to share the property as a family.

This option naturally requires permission from the other owners, and the cost of upkeep and maintenance can be a deal breaker. Some families get around this by renting out the vacation home on an online market place, such as Airbnb, when they’re not using it, which can lead to considerable profits on properties that are especially well located.

Inherited property, multiple owners, and taxes

The State of California does not have an inheritance tax, and the federal exemption for inheritance tax is very high. If you inherit a property with your siblings, which means there are multiple owners, you’ll need to pay annual property taxes, which you’ll likely divide between you in equal share unless your ownership is lopsided.

Further, if you go on to sell the property, you may face federal capital gains taxes on the earned income you receive. If you have questions or concerns about related taxes, it’s always in your best interest to consult with an experienced real estate tax adviser. 

What to do if siblings inherit a house with mortgage payments outstanding

If the house you’ve inherited has a mortgage on it, you and your siblings, together, are responsible for continuing to make the mortgage payments. If one or more of you can’t afford to keep up these payments, you’ll need to address the matter before the bank gets involved, which can lead to foreclosure.

If financing is your primary concern, selling to a real estate investor for a speedy and fair cash offer is often the best option. 

Our key takeaways on dealing with inherited property split between siblings

Inheriting a home with your siblings can be as challenging in terms of practicalities as it is in terms of emotions. In addition to coming to an agreement about the best path forward, you may face issues related to what each of you can afford – in terms of putting the property on the market or keeping it in the family for sentimental reasons, which comes with expenses related to maintenance and repairs.  

At SoCal Home Buyers, we buy houses for cash in California, and we simplify the process to its basic steps – allowing the sale to proceed as smoothly as possible and allowing you and your siblings to move beyond the complications and expense of a shared inheritance.


What happens when two siblings own a property and one dies?

If you own a property with a sibling who has passed, their ownership will transfer to you if you have joint tenancy. If you, instead, have tenancy in common, their will or California’s laws of intestacy – if there is no will – will determine who acquires their ownership in the property.

Can I buy out my siblings in an inherited home?

Yes, if you want to buy out your siblings’ ownership in the house you’ve inherited together, you can do so as long as you’re able to reach an agreement. You may need to obtain an equity loan, or you could establish a payment plan and buy them out over time.

Does inheriting land with siblings work any differently from inheriting property?

If you’ve inherited land with siblings, it’s no different than inheriting property. You won’t have complete control over the land’s sale, and you’ll ultimately need to reach an agreement regarding the land or will need to take the case to court, which is likely to come with serious emotional complications.

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