Resolving heir property

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The term “heir property” is used to describe land or homes that people have inherited from others, often from a family member who passed away without leaving a will. Heir property typically involves many people who have inherited shares in the property from the original deceased owner.

People can leave their property in a will to anyone they choose. However, if a person dies without a will, then the law decides who inherits their property. These rules are the same for everyone and may not leave the property to the person you expect. If you have a relative who owned land and died without a will, you should contact an attorney to make sure you understand how the law applied to your relative and who owns the property now.

Generally, it is not ideal for a large number of people to own property together. This makes it more difficult to sell or mortgage the property or apply for property tax relief, and it creates a risk that one heir may sell their share to someone outside the family, who in turn forces a sale. If a natural disaster damages the property, having many owners can also make it more difficult to get assistance for repairs.

There are two ways to eliminate heir property:

  • All heirs may agree to give ownership to one person. One heir may buy the others’ shares, or the others may voluntarily give their share to a single family member. In some cases, the heirs may agree to form a corporation or other entity to hold and manage the property.
  • Any owner of the property may file for partition. This is a court case in which the owner asks a judge to divide up the property. Typically, this results in the judge ordering the property sold at auction. Anyone, including investors from outside the family, may buy the property at a sale. The property will be sold to the highest bidder. The proceeds will be divided among the owners according to their ownership share.