What’s the best way to divide inherited property? A little property value homework can help you decide the best option for your family.

Q: How do I divide a real estate inheritance? An uncle died and named me the executor of his estate. I didn’t think he had much in the way or money or property, but it turned out that he had left an estate worth several million dollars. It included several pieces of real estate. Only myself and one other sibling were included in the estate (my other two siblings are really angry, but that’s another story!).

I get how to divide the cash portion of the estate. And, stocks and bonds can be estimated. But how do I divide the real estate portion of our inheritance?

What’s the Best Way to Divide Inherited Property?

A: Well, when you’re facing a serious family squabble over money, we suggest that you work with an attorney to help guide you through the probate and inheritance distribution process.

Since your specific question deals with the real estate side of the estate, we’ll focus on that one issue. Start by determining a value for the real estate in the estate, and then decide how to divide the total value of the inheritance between the heirs.

There are several easy ways to do this. You can value the real estate and then decide how to divide it, where one heir take one piece and the other take the rest. You can sell the real estate and then divide the proceeds or you or your sibling can decide to buy one or the other out with other assets you’ve inherited, and then keep and continue to operate the real estate properties.

But really, if the real estate is worth that much, you should have someone to advise you on those properties and which scenarios will be the most valuable to you over time and from a tax perspective.

What Type of Properties Were Inherited?

For example, those properties may be income-producing, in which case you need to figure out whether keeping them or selling them would be in heirs’ best interest. You can work with different types of advisors for that. In one sense, depending on the type of properties, you can work with real estate brokers, investment advisors, real estate attorneys, tax accountants and tax advisors to go through the many issues you’ll face in owning and managing that type of real estate investment.

From the facts as you’ve laid them out, it doesn’t appear that your uncle’s estate would be subject to federal estate taxes. You should also make sure that his estate is not subject to any state taxes. As you work through the estate, you’ll need to make sure you have income to pay for the ongoing expenses of those properties including real estate taxes, insurance, mortgage payments (if there are any) and ongoing maintenance expenses. If you decide to sell one or all of the properties, the broker or companies you hire need to work with you through the process. Given the value of the property, we strongly suggest you to use a real estate attorney to handle the sales or other legalities that may come up.

Short-Term and Long-Term Benefits of Holding Onto Real Estate Properties

Before you sell, think carefully about the short-term and long-term benefits of holding onto these real estate properties. Whether it is a large piece of farmland or a shopping center, different properties can provide a variety of benefits, problems, financials, and future prospects. With all these variables, it would be easy for us to tell you to just sell the properties and split the money, but we’d prefer to you evaluate the properties and make an informed decision so you don’t inadvertently leave money on the table.

Finally, make sure the attorneys you hire are smart enough (and have experience in) sibling inheritance issues to protect you from any problems that might come up. The siblings that are not included in the estate could decide to lawyer up and you need to be aware of any pitfalls that might create for you as you distribute the estate. Remember, being rich is nice, but you will have to figure out a way forward with the siblings who were not included in the bequest.

This inheritance could really sour your family relationships. When families drift apart and relatives decide to distribute assets in a method that excludes some over others, the resentments that existed while those relatives were alive can linger and cause problems for the family long after the death of the relative. As you work through these issues, you can decide whether to respect the terms of the will, or if you might decide to include your siblings.

You have no legal obligation to include them, but that may be a small price to pay for maintaining close ties with your siblings, their spouses and their children.

Good luck.

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