Berman & Asbel, LLP

Bequeathing real property could cause disputes

Pennsylvania residents who own a large piece of land like a farm or a ranch may want to think carefully about how to transfer the land in their estate plan. If they have several children and grandchildren, they may be tempted to draft a simple will that leaves the property to all of those heirs. However, simply leaving land to several people at once can cause complicated disputes in the future.

When a piece of property is owned by a group of people, the landowners will likely be tenants in common. Each tenant in common has an equal right to own the land and make decisions about how the land is managed. This means that all decisions about how to use the land must be reached unanimously because one objection to a proposed development or use is enough to veto it.

A tenants in common arrangement can work great as long as every owner is in agreement about how to use the land. Disputes will arise when they have different visions for the property, however. If they are unable to work things out among themselves, tenants in common may be forced to break the property up into individual parcels or sell the entire property and split the proceeds.

A landowner may want to take the time to create a detailed estate plan so that the potential for future disputes can be mitigated. An estate planning attorney may be able to help a landowner to place a piece of property into a trust so that multiple beneficiaries can enjoy the property while it is managed by a single trustee.

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