Can I include in my will that my children sell my house when I die?

Can I insist in my will that my children sell my house when I die in order to avoid a family fallout?

I want to make sure there are not any arguments between my children regarding selling or keeping the family home when I die.

Is it possible to include in my will the instruction that the property must be sold and the proceeds divided equally between them?

Averting conflict: I want to make my children sell my property when I die so they can’t fight over it (Stock image)

Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: We often receive sad tales and legal questions from siblings who have fallen out over what to do with the family home after the death of their last surviving parent.

This can get tricky especially when those who want to keep the property can’t afford to buy out those who prefer to sell.

Even siblings who are agreed on what to do and remain on good terms can face difficulties, for example if there are debts that can only be cleared by selling the house. 

So, if you anticipate strife between your children over this issue, you can certainly try to head it off by making your wishes clear now.

Be aware though that you might just precipitate and become embroiled in a family row in the present. 

Only you can know if your plan is likely to appease everyone, or simply bring hostilities forward – to your own detriment while you are still alive. 

But keeping the instructions in your will secret could also prove counterproductive, if your children are unpleasantly surprised by them after you are gone. 

Should you decide ensuring your home is sold when you are gone is for the best, you can get a solicitor to draw up a will that achieves your goal. 

We asked a lawyer who is experienced in this field to explain what to do, and the potential pitfalls.

Katie Alsop, partner in the contentious probate team at law firm Wright Hassall, replies: The best starting point to avoid arguments after you have died, irrespective of whom you want to benefit from your estate, is to write a will.

Katie Alsop: It is usually the unexpected which causes family fall-outs

Katie Alsop: It is usually the unexpected which causes family fall-outs

The next proactive step you can take is to speak to your family so that there are no surprises when you die; it is usually the unexpected which causes family fall-outs.

When you give instructions to your solicitor for your will, make sure to go prepared with a list of all the issues you wish to cover and questions you want to ask.

In this case, you need to be ready to explain how you wish your executors and trustees to act, and give the specific details that you want your children to essentially inherit the sale proceeds, rather than the property.

In respect of the sale of the property, you can include an express direction in your will, to your executors and trustees, that they must sell it.

You may also wish to stipulate if the sale should be on the open market, or by auction, if you have a particular preference.

That having been said, it would be wise not to limit the sale to the extent it makes it difficult to comply with your direction.

With regard to the specific bequest to your children, it is crucial to make the distinction between leaving your property equally between your children, in which case they would each have an interest in the property, and leaving them a share in the sale proceeds of the property.

By being more specific and stipulating that your children should have an equal share of the net sale proceeds of the property, this achieves your objective.

You should discuss with your solicitor how the property will be treated in the context of the rest of your estate.

In order to achieve the outcome you desire, you will need to ensure that neither the property nor sale proceeds fall into what is known as the residue of your estate, if that benefits anyone other than your children, or your children but in unequal shares.

It is also important because specific gifts, like the sale proceeds of the property in this scenario, and a residuary estate, are treated differently.

For example, estate liabilities are paid from the residuary estate, before the amount available for distribution is calculated.