Q: My sister passed away and left her house to me and our two brothers.
The three of us decided to sell the house, but before we could, one of my brothers also passed away. He was single with no children and did not have a will.
Can we still sell the house?
A: You will be able to sell the house eventually, but there will be some work to do.
After a person passes away, “probate” is the court process of gathering and distributing their property. When you probated your sister’s estate, her home was transferred to the three brothers.
You each owned a third equally. All three of you needed to work together to sell the house, which is now impossible.
Even though your brother did not have a wife or children, his estate will still need to be probated.
When someone who has a will dies, their probate is called “testate,” and the will is used as instructions to control how their possessions will be distributed.
When there is no valid will, the estate will be “intestate,” and the law will provide default instructions.
In certain situations, it can be complicated to determine who will inherit, but the decedent’s spouse will inherit, followed by the children, and then to the grandchildren.
If none of these people are available to inherit, the decedent’s parents are next in line, followed by the siblings, and the list will go on.
Your next step is to retain an attorney and file a probate case. Unlike most areas of law where people can file a lawsuit themselves, probate requires using an attorney.
Within a few months, you will be able to sell the house with the help of the estate’s representative.
The money from the sale will still get split three ways, with your deceased brother’s share being distributed through the probate process.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. Send him questions online at sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.