Family Home is Parents' Property
December holidays are suitable for discussing the future of your parents’ house because brothers and sisters are usually under one roof.
To sell or not to sell it, that is the burning question, and a very sensitive one if parents or one of them is still alive. It is no problem if both left a will when they passed on. The house then goes to the beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Dying intestate (without a will) can be a nightmare for the family because outsiders empowered by the government, decide how possessions are divided. There’s also the question of taxes. The government always wants a piece of the action.
When a person dies without a valid will, called "intestate", Ontario's Succession Law Reform Act sets out how the estate is distributed.
Parents Under Pressure
Encouraging parents to sell the house where you grew up is also sensitive because, they might feel hurt that their kids are already discussing their property while they are still alive.
It needs a lot of diplomacy to make parents realise that they must make their wishes about their house known, to avoid bad blood after their death.
Maybe parents bought it for $55,000 way back when, but now its property value is $2 million plus, and that money is reason enough to forget that blood is thicker than water. Money is. It will be about money. Forget that he is my brother or she is my sister.
There are many temptations about land, for example condominiums. There is a demand for them all over the world, and developers are always looking for ideal land, even if it means demolishing houses on it, something that was the storyline in Om, Jai, Jagadish, a movie directed by Anupam Kher.
The kind of money developers can offer your parents for their house can be very tempting. Therefore, the Christmas discussion must be tactful because they might think that the motive is money.
Reasons For Selling Homes
It will be easier to bring up the matter if parents have already decided that they want to sell and move to Barbados or buy a condo nearer you, the children, to see grandchildren grow up.
Maybe they are considering selling their property for other reasons.
· They are in a retirement home and there are tenants in the house where you grew up.
· The neighbourhood has changed and parents don’t feel safe
· Skyrocketing property taxes
· Alzheimer’s Disease is slowing eroding your parents’ mental faculties
· Parents are in Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S. looking after grandchildren and distant relatives are caretakers of the family property overseas.
It is common for parents to come to North America or Europe to look after grandchildren, inculcate the language and religion, while their sons and daughters work full time.
If they don’t go back to Africa, Asia or Europe, who is looking after the family property back there? It could be a farm, urban property or a plot in communal property like a village.
Once upon a time, before the British, French, Portuguese or Spanish conquered the world, property inheritance was quite standard: first born sons inherited parents’ properties and family responsibilities. Nowadays, customary law is pitted against European property law.
Banks and Property Ownership
People can live in a house for years but they do not necessarily own it. Title deeds are legal proof of ownership.
Where is the title deed? Most people do not have title deeds because what they call their house belongs to the bank, until they pay off the debt.
If they lose their jobs or cannot pay for any reason, banks move in and reclaim their property. That is why some people end up living in trailers or streets. Did your parents pay off the mortgage or the bond? If yes, where is the title deed?
Death is a taboo subject. Life has beaten us black and blue but we still want to wake up every morning. That is why many people do not have a will, although they own houses, shares in companies, retirement savings or just money in the bank.
Someone's will can give things to anybody, immediate and extended family, even friends.
· Children from previous marriages
· Step children from the current marriage
· Divorced spouses
· Loyal servants
Maybe your parent or parents already have a will and that might come up in that Christmas discussion. That settles it. Their house, where you grew up, will be covered in the will.
Property law is very complicated in other countries because it is tied up with customs and religion.
Your parents’ house overseas, where you were born might not have a title deed because it has been in the family for more than a hundred years. Your parents informally inherited it from your grandparents, who got it from your great grandparents.
You might think that it belongs to your parents only to discover that it belongs to a chief, a village headman, the church or a Hollywood star who bought the whole island.
Selling it therefore, is out of the question because there can be no property sale without ownership. Whatever the outcome, that Christmas discussion about the family home will bear some fruit.
Family members might even consider flying back home with their parents in 2017, to establish the real owner of what they call home. Google does not have all the answers and a Skype round table will be too clinical.