Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Massachusetts

My Mom died 14 months ago (Dad deceased also). My Mom left her home 50/50 to my sister and I. My sister and family lives in the home (my Mom moved to in-law in basement after my Dad died in 2002). Per agreement with Mom, my sister and family lived rent free. When Mom died my sister and I agreed to sell the house and split the proceeds (no mortgage). She asked for 6 months because she wasn't ready to sell. So eight months later (sept. 10) we put the house on the market, we still have not sold it and it is taking it's toll on our once very close relationship. If it continues to not sell can they continue to live there rent free (they pay taxes and utilities) or are we entitled to 1/2 fair market value of rent (and of course we'd pay 1/2 of taxes at that point). They don't like to have open houses and seem to be in no hurry for it to sell. Meanwhile my husband got laid off in Dec. and we're struggling to pay our mortgage. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Asked on 3/29/11, 4:03 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Christopher Vaughn-Martel Charles River Law Partners, LLC

Perhaps your sister should move out of the home so the house can be cleaned and staged for a quick sale. Obviously, the best possible outcome would be the voluntary sale of the property by the two of you. If that is not going to be possible, you do have the right to bring an action in the probate court called a "petition for partition". In a partition action, you are asking the court to order the sale of the home. It might be cheaper for you to incentivise your sister to vacate the property in exchange for a slightly larger share. If you are looking for legal representation, please feel free to contact my office.

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Answered on 3/29/11, 4:10 pm
Denise Leydon Harvey Harvey Law Offices

I agree with Attorney Vaughn-Martel. It is possible to petition for partition, but it is a lengthy and expensive process if the parties cannot come to an agreement before the process is complete. You should discuss with your sister the fact that you are entitled to half the rental value of the property from the date of your mother's death, but that you are willing to waive the first six months to accommodate her. Another option would be to have your sister buy out your half of the house (after 9 years with no rent, she should have a pretty good nest egg). That way she doesn't have to move and you don't have to keep chasing her. You are in a tough spot because she is your sister, but you do have your own needs and she should be reminded of that. Please let me know if I can asist you in any way with this.

Good luck -

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Answered on 3/30/11, 6:17 am

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