Q: I am a one-third heir to my late father’s estate. He passed away two years ago and my brother is the executor. He is buying me out of my one-third share.

My brother has just recently presented me with a buy-out amount. I think the offer is on the low side. What can I do to increase the amount to something that I think would be more fair?

The property that I co-own is a two-family building located on a piece of land that is zoned commercial. My brother hasn’t shown me the appraisal report, but I suspect he had it appraised as a single-family property.

Another problem is that my brother has lived in one of the two units in the building for the past two years without paying any rent. How can I insist that rent be paid to the estate?

A: You need more information to determine the value of the property. You can seek out the advice of some real estate brokers and see what they think the home is worth.

If you find out that your hunch is right and you also find out that your brother knows that the home is worth more than the value he is placing on it, you will need an attorney who can represent your interests – particularly if your brother is not acting in the best interests of your father’s estate.

On the personal side, your brother doesn’t appear to be acting very brotherly.

You must first think about whether you want to preserve this relationship. Is having a relationship with your brother more important than money or will you always resent that he may have taken advantage of you?

Once you make your decision, your choices will be clear:

If you don’t care about the relationship, you can hire a team of professionals to help you sort out the situation, including an attorney, an independent appraiser (to give you up to date valuations for the real estate) and an accountant to add up how much the estate is actually worth and make sure that your brother hasn’t been stealing from it.

The accountant should include as a debt owed to your father’s estate the two years of rent that your brother hasn’t paid and any other monies he may have used to his benefit and not for the benefit of the estate.

You mention that you’re a one-third heir to the estate. You and the other one-third heir should get together to do this and present a united front. If you find that the valuations are substantially different than what your brother has presented to you, you can work to get him to pay more for your interest in the property.

Unfortunately, if in the course of your dealings with your brother you find that he truly has not represented your father’s estate in a proper matter, then you can petition the court to remove him as executor.

If you decide that your relationship is more important than money, your other option is to simply accept what he is offering and move on.

My guess is that either way you go will spell the end of your relationship. If you accept what’s offered, you’ll always worry you were cheated. And if you hire a team to see if your brother is cheating, he will accuse you of not trusting him.

Good luck.

Sept. 10, 2007.