Should I FIle a Partition Action?

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I am a co-owner of property left to me, my sister, and my brother in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My sister is/was the Trustee in charge of managing this property, and I am/was the second in line, should my sister not be able to fulfill her duties. My sister and I have been at odds since we were forced into this partnership. The biggest issue is the house. In an effort to get me to bend to her will, my sister has threatened to sell the house at a loss, and/or purchase my interest in the house (also at a loss), just to spite me. I have begged her for almost 5 years to keep me apprised of what is taking place with the house, and every time I have done so, the war has escalated. I have discovered that she has been “creative” with the little money that is left to manage this property, and has spent money on gifts to local vendors, as well as paying herself for her “time” spent on financial matters as Trustee. Every time I have asked for accountability from her, which is something I am entitled to as an equal beneficiary, she has flown into a rage. Rather than work with me to manage this simple property, and therefore augment its value so that it can be sold for a benefit to all three of us, she has preferred to bully, cajole, insult and threaten me. The latest was when she tried to force me to purchase her interest, and my brother’s interest, in the house – SIGHT UNSEEN and AS IS. She gave me a very short window of time to do this. Even though I have no desire to live in that home, rather than let it deteriorate even further, I made a heroic effort, got so far as qualifying for a loan, and then, at the last minute, my sister yanked that offer out from under me. Because of her refusal, the window of time I had to purchase this home per her terms has evaporated. I am disabled, and unemployed because of this, and on a severely fixed income. The stress my sister has heaped on me has caused my health to worsen. I have refused to accept her offer to “buy me out” because the reason the property has lost value is because of mismanagement, as well as five years of sporadic tenancy, and destruction caused by tenants to the property. I have researched comparable homes in the area, and similar properties are selling for $150,000 and upwards from that. I countered my sister’s demand with a demand that she pay me $50,000 for my interest in the home, and be done with it. We cannot have a productive dialogue. She has failed to respond, and has filed a partition action – which is, of course, her way of responding. I don’t want to just let this sit. I know that some might consider that the value of the home isn’t worth the fight. However, my sister has made it personal. One of the things she has done is threaten my life. She made the mistake of sending me something by accident that was not meant for my eyes to see, which included discussions about “taking a contract out on me” with her ex-husband. So, she has made it extremely personal. While I don’t expect to reap anything of value from this home, I am unwilling to just hand it over to her.

Procedurally, what you can do depends on the legal status of the title to the property, which is not entirely clear from your description. You mention that your sister is the successor trustee, which implies that the title is still in the name of your parents’ trust, but you also said that your sister filed a partition action, which implies that it is in your names.

If this is a trust issue, you could pursue an action in probate court because your sister has misused her role as trustee. If this is just co-ownership,then a partition action (possibly with an action for accounting added in) is actually the correct forum for resolving your dispute. In either case, it seems clear that you’ve already exhausted the possibility of dealing with your sister directly. You need to address this, if at all, through attorneys. If hiring an attorney is too expensive, given what is at stake, then your least-bad option may be to just walk away.

That’s the property, but there’s also a personal aspect to this. Before you even deal with the property, you should seriously look into getting a restraining order against your sister. Death threats are not to be taken lightly.