Bridgeport, CT asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Puerto Rico

Q: Grandmother died in 2016, no will, aunt moved into house and wants to pay below market value to pay off siblings.

After grandmother died without a will, aunt entered house, removed uncle’s belongings & changed the locks.

Two offers from aunt:

Option 1 pay each sibling $5,000 for their share. $5,000 each for 7 heirs is $35,000 total valuation for house.

Option 2 threatened to go to court if mom doesn’t agree.

1.) We’re skeptical about $35,000 value claimed by aunt. It was purchased around 1980 for $16,000. Three bedroom cement house with 600 squared meters flat property. How do we figure out the proper value of the house? When do we get appraisal; now or later during the court proceedings?

2.) Will voluntary remodeling costs by aunt be subtracted from estate?

3.) Does portions relinquished by siblings get equally shared with remaining heirs?

4.) What if no agreement between heirs? Does court force sale?

5.) Does my aunt owe money to estate for living rent free for 7 years?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Rafael  Pagan-Colon
Rafael Pagan-Colon
  • Probate Lawyer
  • San Juan, PR
  • Licensed in Puerto Rico

A: From the scenario that you paint, Option 2 (going through the Puerto Rico courts) seems the better alternative. It will force an appraisal of the real estate, to determine each heir's share in the estate. Any expenses incurred in maintaining the property or even increasing its value will be distributed proportionately among the heirs.

Regarding relinquishment/repudiation of an hereditary interest by an heir, it will go to increase the participation of the remaining heirs.

The court can force a judicial sale, based on the premise established by the Puerto Rico Civil Code that no commoner is forced to remain in a community property.

Regarding an heir's enjoyment of an estate property. If all the heirs request the residing heir to pay rent, said rent is effective from the moment that the rent is demanded (preferably in writing). By allowing your aunt to live on the property without paying rent, it is assumed that she has done so with the approval of the remaining heirs (else, they would've requred to pay rent before now). Said demand should be done in writing, preferably sent by certified mail with receipt evidence, and should be signed by all of the other heirs. Nevertheless, any loss of value on the estate during the time that it has been in your aunt's possession -including any property that she may have sold from the estate- goes against her participation of the estate and may be a cause of action from the other heirs.

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