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How to Force a Sale of a House Frequently Asked Questions

While there are a variety of reasons that individuals may co-own property, oftentimes beneficiaries are left property in a will. For example, a parent may leave the family house to all her kids as tenants in common or joint tenants. This may create a difficult situation as some children may wish to maintain the family home, while others may wish to sell it. When a co-owner of a house wants to sell and the others do not, New York law allows the co-owner who wants to sell to force the sale of the house by petition the court or partition. If you are in a dispute with co-owners of a house and have questions related to how to force a sale of a house, brownstone, condo, or co-op, contact an experienced New York probate administration lawyer to discuss your concerns.

Does an executor have the authority to force a sale of a house?

During probate the executor of an estate has the legal authority over managing assets of an estate, including the authority to sell property. However, there are limitations to that power. The executor's decisions related to property in an estate must take into account the terms of the will, the wishes of the beneficiaries, and what is in the best interest of the estate. If the decedent stated in his (or her) will that the house should be sold and the proceeds giving to specific beneficiaries, then the executor must do so regardless of the whether there are beneficiaries who want to keep the house. Similarly, if all beneficiaries want to sell the property, then the executor may do so. There may be other situations in which the executor decides that he must sell estate property, including real estate to satisfy debts. The executor will only do so if it is in the best interests of the estate to do so.

Even though the executor may have the authority to sell a house, it may be quicker and less complicated if the property is sold after probate when it has been turned over to the beneficiaries. To learn more about the authority that an executor has to sell probate real estate, contact a New York probate administration attorney.

What is the difference between tenants in common and joint tenants?

A house that has co-owners can be held as tenants in common or as joint tenants. Tenant in common co-ownership means that each co-owner has an undivided, transferable, individual interest in the property. This means that each co-owner has the right to sell his interest in the property. On the other hand, with joint tenancy, each co-owner has an interest in the property, but there is a right of survivorship. When one joint tenant passes away the surviving joint tenants automatically receive the deceased's joint tenant share.

If a decedent's house was owned by the deceased in joint tenancy with others, than the house is not part of the probate estate. The executor would not have control over it. The other joint tenants would receive title and have the right to sell it if they choose.

What is partition?

As a probate administration attorney in New York will explain, when considering how to force a sale of a house where one or more co-owners want to sell it, but the others do not, an action to partition is a legal way to go about forcing the sale of the house.

The co-owner wishing to sell would have to petition the court for partition. Because courts are loathe to force individuals to keep property that they do not want, partition petitions are typically granted. Before forcing a sale the court will determine if there is a way to physically partition the property so that each co-owner has a separate, divided interest in the house. For example, if the house has two separate apartments with two entrances, the court may order that the ownership interest in the house be divided such that one person owns the downstairs apartment, while the other person owns the upstairs apartment. However, this type of partition is often not feasible as it is difficult to divide a house in a manner that makes sense such that both parties receive a fair interest in the house. As a result, the court is likely to order a sale of the house with the proceeds being distributed to the co-owners.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Because houses are often the highest valued property in an estate, it is not unusual for some beneficiaries to want to sell the property and use the cash for other purposes. On the other hands, houses also have great sentimental value to families, making it tough for them to agree to sell. While the issues involved in how to force a sale of a house are complex and can involve difficult emotions, the law is on the side of co-owners who want to force a sale. Whether the dispute over property involves co-owners who are siblings, other relatives, or non-relative co-owners, contact an experienced probate administration attorney serving New York to discuss options related to the property. The New York attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience working closely with beneficiaries, heirs, and executors to make sure that their interests are protected during the process of transferring ownership of homes and other real estate. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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