Maybe your parents were trying to keep everything fair and equal when they left the family home and land to all of their children jointly. Or maybe there was no will at all, so you and your siblings inherited jointly according to intestate laws. In cases where property has been passed down through a family for generations, there could be dozens of joint heirs Woman Holding a House in Her Handswhen there is no will. Whatever the situation is that led you to jointly inherit property in Texas or Arkansas, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) can help you get your fair share.

What Is Heir Property?

In legal terms, heir property is undivided joint property. As in the examples we gave above, this means that multiple people have inherited a single piece of property. Up until the passage of the UPHPA in Arkansas in 2017 and Texas in 2018, this often created a nightmare scenario where complete strangers could swoop in and buy the land at public auction for pennies on the dollar. Thankfully, that is not the case anymore, but heir property can still cause some headaches.

What to Do If You Want Out of a Joint Inheritance

So, let’s look at the simplest form of heir property. Let’s say you and your sister are joint heirs of your parents’ house. You don’t want the house, but you want your share of what it’s worth. Your sister wants to keep the house, but will not agree to buy you out. You will need to take the following steps:

  • File in court. You will have to file a partition suit with the court, asking them to divide the property. As the person who files suit, you will be ineligible to buy the property.
  • Appraise property. The court will appoint an independent appraiser to determine the fair market value of the property.
  • Offer to joint owners. In this example, your sister will be given an opportunity to pay you 50 percent of the property’s value. In a situation involving multi-generational heir property, this step could involve finding and notifying dozens of people and determining each person’s legal interest. That can be a costly and time-consuming process.
  • Court sells property. If your sister doesn’t want to or cannot afford to buy you out, the house will be put on the open market, and you and your sister will each get 50 percent of the sale price.

Clearly, while the UPHPA makes the division of property legally possible, it can be hard on families.

Planning Ahead With an Attorney Can Prevent Family Strife

The best option for avoiding a family battle after your death is to make a smart estate plan. It’s really never a good idea to leave property to multiple heirs. In trying to be fair, you could drive a life-long wedge between your children. Instead, you should discuss options with an estate planning attorney. At Ross & Shoalmire, P.L.L.C., we have seen all kinds of crazy heir property situations, and we can help you avoid them with a comprehensive estate plan. Contact one of our five office locations in the Ark-La-Tex to schedule an appointment today.