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Mom's estate gets split among all siblings, living or dead

It's a mistake to assume that when someone

It's a mistake to assume that when someone dies their share of a house automatically goes back into the pot, thus leaving the future sales proceeds to be divided between living siblings. Credit: iStock

My mom passed away five years ago, leaving her home to her five children, with the stipulation that it be sold within one year of her death and the proceeds equally divided. However, we all agreed that since two of us had been living in the house all along, we didn't have to sell it until one of those in the house decided to move; then the one remaining in the house either had to buy the others out or sell it and divide the proceeds. One sibling has died since then, leaving four to divide the money if we choose to sell. Would my deceased sister's portion go to her husband, who inherited everything from her when she died? He's been hinting at this. We're afraid of going to the lawyer who drew Mom's will, as we might be opening Pandora's box.


If your brother-in-law inherited everything your late sister owned, he owns part of the house.

You're mistaken in assuming that when she died her share in the house automatically went back into the pot, leaving the future sales proceeds to be divided between her four siblings. Although you agreed to postpone selling the house, that didn't alter the fact that you each became owner of a one-fifth share of its value when your mother died, says Sharon Kovacs Gruer, a Great Neck estate lawyer.

The terms of your late sister's will determine who now owns her share. If she had no will, her assets were divided between her surviving spouse and children. If she had no will and no children, your brother-in-law is her sole heir. If you don't want to sell the house, the four of you can refinance and buy out his share.

The bottom line An asset passes to the heirs of its last owner.

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