How to take control of Real Estate in a Succession

When real estate is inherited by more than one heir it can get tied up– a stalemate can occur.  Typically, a parent will leave the family home to all their children, but they may not be situated equally.  Consequently, one heir wants to sell and the other does not.  Should the heir who doesn’t want to sell have “veto” power over the property?  Putting the property under  administration and selling it out of the succession is one solution.


Woman Handing Over the House Keys To A New Home Inside Empty Tan Colored Room.

Consider  the following example: One sibling has been living in the family house for years, rent free, while the other sibling
has been financially responsible and lives out of state. If the attorney put both the heirs into possession, each would each get their percentage of ownership, but both would have to agree in order to sell the house and distribute the proceeds.  The sibling who is living in the house rent free has an incentive not to sell, because as part owner he would have the right to continue to live there. The out of state sibling would get no tangible benefit from being a co-owner.  This produces the stalemate I was talking about.  One wants to sell, one does not – as a consequence the house cannot be sold.*

As attorney for the estate I have advised putting the succession under administration and selling the house out of the open succession.  With this scenario, each heir benefits equally.  The heir who opens the succession applies to the court to be named as administrator of the estate. Any interested party can object on the basis that they are unfit for the office.  But if there are no objections, and it is rare to have an objection, the administrator is empowered to make decisions for the succession, including selling assets to pay off the heirs.

There are two ways that estates can be put under administration in Louisiana.  The standard mode requires court approval for each administrator’s decision. The other way is called an independent administration, and gives wide latitude to the administrator.  Either way, with or without court approval, the administrator can list the house for sale with a real estate agent and at the closing sign for the succession. The sales proceeds are deposited in the succession’s bank account and ultimately divided among the heirs.

 

* The asterisk refers to the type of lawsuit called a partition by licitation. A co-owner can sue to have a property legally sold at auction, whether or not the co-owners agree. This is an expensive option and a sale at a public auction does not fetch the highest price.

 

What is a Purchase Agreement and why is it important?

JohnMenszer2-Crop_-0761For a buyer or seller of real estate the Purchase Agreement is a critically important document. It is the rule book or ”road map” for the transaction. Most people sign their Purchase Agreements without reading or fully understanding what they are agreeing to. Then, if there is a bad outcome, they call an attorney and want to get out of the contract.  It may be too late.

There is a Standard Agreement that is in common use among the real estate brokers and agents in New Orleans. It protects the commission of the realtors and splits the penalties between the buyer and seller roughly down the middle. It sets out the conditions for property inspections and financing. In a private sale it is not necessary to use this Standard Agreement. A seller or a buyer may decide they want to use a contract that is more favorable to them or meets their special needs. This is permitted. Or, the Standard Agreement can be modified with additional terms and conditions.

A real estate deal is a complicated venture involving property inspections, financing, appraisals, warranties, title issues, timing of events and a significant deposit. Many things can go wrong. As a result penalties can kick in and property can be tied up in litigation.

Consulting with a real estate attorney prior to signing a Purchase Agreement or hiring a lawyer to draft a modified or custom contract is time and money well spent.