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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  JA Mentor
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My husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law will one day

Customer Question

Hi - My husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law will one day inherit parent's farm. Husband is interested in us investing in a farm with his brother which is connected to parent's farm. What is the smartest way to go about buying and setting up the ownership interest in this "additional" farm? If possible, I would like to protect my immediate family's interest and have control of this additional investment....if something should happen to my husband and my kids are not interested in the property I would want the option to cash out at fair market value. Likewise, if my brother-in-law determines at some point in time that he is no longer interested in the property, I would like the option to buy him out? With multiple owners, I'm concerned about maintaining control/flexibility. Thoughts? Advice?
JA: Thanks. Can you give me any more details about your issue?
Customer: How does one owner maintain flexibility/control of property owned by multiple owners? What is the best way to structure ownership?
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Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.


I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

If the second farm is being bought as a business investment, you may want to consider having it put in an LLC. That way, you'll have documents stating what each person's percentage of interest is, what each person's role in the business is going to be, what types of transactions require a majority vote versus something more, under what circumstances more stock could be issued, and things like that. Then you'd also be able to include a provision for the business to buy owners out in certain circumstances (like if one of you should pass away). An LLC also helps ensure that your parents' property could not be taken to pay any debts arising out of ownership of the second property.

With nothing in writing, all people who own property are either joint tenants or tenants in common. With joint tenants, when one person dies, the other owners automatically split his interest. The interest cannot be willed to a third party. With tenants in common, an interest can be willed to a person's heirs. In either situation, any owner could bring a lawsuit to force a sale - either making the other owners buy his interest or forcing a sale to a third party. That's more difficult if the property were held by a business. However, absent a written agreement, owners each have the same right to manage/control the property, and that can lead to a lot of conflict with multiple owners. So it can help to have a local attorney write up a contract no matter which type of ownership you agree on.

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