Q: My wife recently passed away. She, along with her three sisters, owned a family camp.
My wife and her sisters each owned 25 percent of the camp, and her share was transferred to me after her death.
One of the sisters and I wish to sell our interest in the camp. The other two sisters do not wish to buy our shares, and in fact, don’t want to sell at all. But after some arm-twisting, each sister has agreed that the property could be sold.
I suggested that we each contact a real estate broker and have the four brokers put a package of comps together along with a listing agreement. We would then sit down and meet with each broker, evaluate his or her experience, look at the commission rate and then chose the best broker for the property.
However, when we actually got together to evaluate the sales proposal, one of the sisters only had a verbal proposal from her broker. My broker put a professional package together and the commission rate was less then the other broker.
The two sisters who do not want to sell refuse to use my broker, and never even talked to brokers to get the process going.
This has been going on for over 6 months and I am now prepared to execute a forced sale. The two sisters who don’t want to sell are upset that I do not want to be partners with them in this family camp, the value of which is about $350,000. They also get upset when I point out they are continuing to be obstructionist in moving the sale to closure
What do you suggest I do to get them to sell? Also, I did not get a Christmas gift from them this year.
A: I have to say, you’ve really missed the boat on this one.
Your problem is one of hurt feelings. As you say, the other owners “are upset” that you do not want to be partners with them. They have recently lost their sister and now they feel they are losing you because you no longer want your late wife’s share in the family camp.
The big light bulb for me is the fact that they couldn’t even bring themselves to buy you a token gift for Christmas.
Can’t you see that this is terribly emotional for them? The sale of a family camp which, presumably, has been in their family for years is not at all about real estate and certainly not about money. It’s about finding a way to peacefully part with a large portion of your past.
Some people can’t figure out how to do this without years of therapy. You’re trying to make it happen just a few months after their sister’s death.
These women will continue to make your life difficult until you reach out to them emotionally and help them have the kind of closure about your wife’s death (and whatever that means in terms of their nuclear family changing forever) that you have apparently found – or believe you’ll find when you sell your late wife’s share of this family camp.
I think you have probably gone about this sale in the wrong way (for them) and since you are partners with your sisters-in-law, you have to get them on your team or this sale won’t ever happen unless you go to court and force it – which would have perfectly awful repercussions for generations to come.
You’ll need a good real estate attorney who can help you get everyone to the table, and who can mediate the legal and business concerns each owner will have. Having an outsider should help everyone focused on the sale of the property.
But first, you might want to invite your sisters-in-law over to your home and present them with a memento of their sister. By showing some honest respect for their grief you might find them more willing to help you out in return.
Published: Feb 11, 2005