DEAR BOB: After reading your articles about all the problems homeowners have when they add their heirs to their titles before death, I have decided not to add my daughter to my home’s title. However, she will receive my home in my will. The house is in my name, but I live in it with my husband. He owns another house where he goes every day to smoke indoors and watch television. In my will, I provide a life estate in my house for my husband if I die first. Do you think this is a good idea? –Gayle T.

DEAR GAYLE: No. I’m glad you benefited from reading about the drawbacks of adding an heir to your title before death.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

But have you also noticed all the problems with life estates, especially when the life tenant fails to maintain the residence, lets it run down, and refuses to move out?

If you die first, leaving your house to your daughter but with a life estate for your husband, he could keep living in that house for many years while it gradually deteriorates. If you die first why should you leave him a life estate in your house, depriving your daughter of full possession and ownership, especially since he has another house to live in? That makes no sense.


DEAR BOB: In January 2006 I received title to a house I inherited. I had the house appraised and then sold it at an auction in April 2006. How much profit tax do I owe? –Frances A.

DEAR FRANCES: Congratulations. You appear to have done everything right by getting a professional appraisal to establish your “stepped-up basis” for the inherited house as of January 2006.

Although I am not a great fan of auctions for single-family houses, I presume you had valid reasons for selling that way.

If you received a net amount, after paying all expenses including auction fees, exceeding the January 2006 market-value appraisal amount, only that (likely) small amount is taxable. For full details, please consult your tax adviser.


DEAR BOB: When our mother died in 2005, her will left her house (worth about $350,000) to her five adult children. One sister, who lived with mother during her last few years when she was ill, wants to continue living in the house. But the other four want to sell the house and divide the proceeds (there is no mortgage). There is no reason for the sister to live alone in the big old house. We think she is just being selfish, but she is preventing the sale. Does majority rule? How can we force her to agree to a sale? She can’t afford to buy us out. She doesn’t even have enough income to pay the property taxes and the repairs. –George R.

DEAR GEORGE: Leaving the house to five siblings, especially when one disagrees with the majority, can be a nightmare. Presuming you all hold title as tenants-in-common, there is only one way to force a sale of the house.

It is called a partition lawsuit. You will need to hire a local real estate attorney to guide the process through court. It’s up to the judge to decide. But with a 4-1 vote in favor of selling, a judge would find it very difficult not to order a partition sale of the property with the sale proceeds divided among the five owners. Consult local real estate attorney for full details.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Pros and Cons of Fast and Slow House Flipping for Big Profits,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Thousands of real estate pros joined us virtually for Connect Now and you can access the replays with a 2022 bundle.Access Now×
Agent Appreciation Sale: Inman Select for only $85.CLAIM OFFER×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription