My siblings want to keep my late father’s home, but I don’t – can I force the sale?

My late father died intestate in January. His only asset was his home, which has been valued at £240,000. Our mother passed away prior to my father and she had no will.

I am one of three siblings. My other two siblings want to take on my late father’s property. I do not.

They have offered me a 25 per cent cash sum, with £30,000 paid now and the remaining £30,000 in approximately 18 months.

Inheritance dilemma: My two siblings want to keep my late father’s home, but I don’t – can I force the sale? (Stock image)

Is this a reasonable time frame to wait? Is there a legal time frame that they have to pay me by? Can I force the sale?

Personally, I feel they are being unfair. I left work and took early retirement at the end of 2019 due to health reasons, with no additional pensions or any bonus payments.

It has taken them seven months to tell me they don’t have the full funds to buy me out.

Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: I’m sorry to hear that you are at odds with your siblings over your inheritance at a time when you are all recently bereaved.

It is often the case that some children want to hang on to a family home after losing their last surviving parent, although this may be beyond their financial means.

This can occur even when no one’s share needs to be bought out, if running costs are high. However, reality can take a while to sink in, especially when people are grieving and may be sentimentally attached to a late loved one’s property.

Unless an adminstrator has been appointed to sort out your father’s estate who is sufficiently neutral to step in, it could sadly fall to you to deliver the news to your siblings that they simply don’t have enough money to keep on his property, and therefore it should be sold.

My divorced and childless brother died without a will, so who in our family will inherit? 

A previous reader question detailed an estate worth about £400,000 and asked who will inherit and what percentage?

Find out the answer and order of inheritance when someone dies intestate here. 

That is unless they have intentionally made you a lower offer than they can actually afford, in the hope you will accept it in order to settle the issue if you are in immediate need of money.

I raise the latter possibility not to upset you, but you are likely to know your own family and whether or not they have been genuinely attempting to scrape up enough cash to pay you over the past seven months.

However, based on the information you have given here, it sounds like you should receive a third of the value of your father’s home not just a quarter.

Also, after waiting quite a while to hear your siblings’ offer, it will be understandable if you are not prepared to accept a part payment upfront and a vague assurance that you will get the rest in around 18 months’ time.

Unfortunately, therefore, you might decide it is necessary to force the sale of the property to resolve this matter. If so, it would be best to seek legal advice as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

Even if you are prepared to consider your siblings’ offer, it appears things are already tricky enough between you that it would be sensible to speak to a lawyer anyway to get their view on the best way forward.

If nothing else, it does sound like you need someone else in your corner, and an informed, dispassionate professional could offer crucial assistance at this point.

We asked a lawyer who is experienced in this area to give his take on your situation, and he explains your options and how to find your own legal help below.

Luke Watson, a partner who specialises in contentious trust and probate disputes at law firm Stone King, replies: It is always a very difficult and stressful time for a family when a loved one passes away.

Due to the heightened emotions it is common for tension to arise between family members such as siblings.

Luke Watson:  If your siblings cannot afford to buy you out then the property should be sold

Luke Watson:  If your siblings cannot afford to buy you out then the property should be sold

The situation can be particularly difficult where a parent doesn’t leave a will because this often delays the distribution of the estate.

How should your father’s estate be shared in this situation?

I am assuming that your father had not remarried at the time of his death and this means his estate will pass to all three siblings under what is known as the intestacy rules; these set out what happens after someone passes away without leaving a will.

In this situation you and your siblings should all receive an equal share of your father’s estate.

Where someone dies leaving a property which is to be shared between more than one sibling, the property will normally be sold with the net proceeds of sale being divided equally (after payment of any tax and the costs of sale such as legal and estate agent’s fees).

It is possible for one or more sibling’s share to be bought out but this would normally be an equal share of the total value rather than the reduced sum which has been offered to you.

If your siblings cannot afford to buy you out then the property should be sold. 

What action can you take to ensure you get your share of the estate?

Where someone dies without leaving a will an administrator will normally be appointed to distribute the estate, and this is usually a close relative.

If there is a dispute between siblings then legal advice should be obtained because, unfortunately, it may be necessary to apply to court to force a sale and/or apply for the administrator to be changed.

Any court application would normally proceed in the Chancery Division of the High Court. The current administrator could be one of your siblings which means that a court could decide to appoint an independent administrator such as a solicitor because of the family dispute.

I am not sure why your siblings have made a lower offer to you but, in any event, you are all entitled to an equal one third share under the intestacy rules.

The 18 month delay seems arbitrary and there is no obligation on you to accept it.

It would be a good idea to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor without delay.

You should be able to find a suitable solicitor who is local to you by searching the Law Society database here.

It may be possible to find a solicitor who will agree to the legal costs being paid out of your eventual inheritance rather than upfront although this will vary from firm to firm depending on the individual circumstances of each case.

The Government has useful information on what happens when someone dies without a will here.