Sharing an Inheritance With a Sibling

By John Cromwell

Although sibling rivalries can be difficult at the best of times, sharing an inheritance between brothers and sisters can be incredibly difficult. While inheritances are generally divided so that each beneficiary gets property they own outright, some pieces of property can be transferred so that siblings own the assets jointly. For example, a family home might be inherited jointly by siblings. With siblings owning jointly inherited property, the decedent probably wanted to ensure that all of the siblings get to use the property equally, and that they cannot easily sell the bequeathed assets. Conversely, the siblings may want to determine how to divide their jointly shared assets so they can own their portion of the asset without having to share.


A trust is a distinct legal entity that holds property for the benefit of chosen individuals, such as siblings. Trust property is managed and held by a trustee, who must comply with the terms of the trust agreement regarding when to distribute the trust’s assets. Many times, a trust that is made for siblings contains a spendthrift clause, which prevents the beneficiaries from using trust assets for their own purposes. This means that a sibling beneficiary cannot promise his share of the trust assets to a third party as payment to obtain something else. In other words, the sibling can use the trust assets but cannot sell his share of the trust assets.

Trust Termination

Many times, a trust with sibling beneficiaries automatically terminates when they reach a certain age. The trust property is then distributed to the beneficiary for them to do as they wish. The trust may also be terminated, if the purpose of the trust has been fulfilled. For example, a trust may be established for the sibling’s education. If other siblings completed their education, they could petition the court to terminate the trust and distribute the portion that remains because the trust’s purpose has been fulfilled.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Heirs' Property

Often, real estate is transferred to siblings jointly. This can either be through a will or as “heirs’ property” if the estate is intestate. In either case, the siblings are tenants in common. Each tenant in common owns a portion of the property but can use the entirety of it. A common example is a house left to four siblings. While each may individually own 25 percent of the house, they are all entitled to use the entirety of the property for their own benefit.


If one sibling wants to sell their share of the tenancy in common, things can get very complicated. If the other siblings do not want or are unable to buyout the departing tenant, the property will have to be partitioned. Partitioning is a judicial action that requires a court to either physically divide co-owned property based on each person’s ownership interest or to compel a sale and divide the proceeds among the former tenants. The sale option is likely when an asset cannot be easily physically divided, such as with a single-unit home. Any individual co-tenant can request a partitioning procedure without the other tenants’ permission.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Houses Split Between Siblings in a Will


Related articles

Can an Heir Be a Co-Trustee of the Trust?

An heir can be named as a trustee, even if he is a beneficiary. However, there are issues to consider when naming an heir as a trustee. The role of the trustee is to ensure that property is maintained and distributed for the benefit of the beneficiaries. As such, a beneficiary-trustee may be tempted to not share the trust property with the other beneficiaries and keep it all for himself.

What Items Should Be Put Into a Living Trust?

A living trust is created during a person's lifetime and comes in two types: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust allows you to freely transfer your property in and out of the trust. By contrast, the maker of an irrevocable trust cannot serve as trustee or exercise control over the trust's assets, so irrevocable trusts are less flexible than revocable trusts. Many people fund their revocable trusts with their most valuable assets, which usually include the family home, bank accounts and investments.

Rules Regarding the Distribution of a Trust When a Beneficiary Is Deceased

How a trust is distributed depends on two things: the relevant trust law and the document that created the trust. Trust law varies based on the state where the property is located. The specific rules regarding distribution is defined by the declaration of trust, which is drafted according to the trust creator’s wishes. The three main questions to ask when determining the effect of a deceased beneficiary on a trust are: do the beneficiary’s heirs have a right to the trust; are there any other surviving beneficiaries; and does the creator of the trust want to change the terms.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Questions to Ask an Attorney on Your Rights If You Inherited a House With Siblings

If the love of money is the root of all evil, then having to share your right to it with others, even siblings, can ...

How to Get Out of Inherited Property Held As Tenants-in-Common

Tenants in common is a type of ownership interest where two or more persons own a piece of property together. Unless a ...

State Laws on Last Wills and Trusts

The laws on last wills and trusts are similar across states, but each state has slightly different requirements. The ...

Separating Siblings With Divorce

Courts in most states are opposed to separating siblings when their parents divorce. Children are experiencing the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED