Question:

My father died in 2001. I am the only son in the family and have 2 sisters. Approximately 5 years before my father died (my mother passed away in 1983) my father was asked by one of my sisters to buy his 4 family house from him. (This sister was married at the time, but got divorced about 2 years later). My father was told by my sister and her husband they had to sell a house that they owned (they had another house which they lived in) because the foundation was sinking and time was of the essence. They therefore wanted to by his house in a “like kind exchange” so that they would not have to pay capital gains tax on the house they were selling. They sold their house for $220,000 and “bought” my fathers house for that same amount. My other sister and I were each given $80,000 and my other sister and her husband received title to the house. My father was reluctant to do this, but were pressured by my sister and her husband to do so, using the excuse that “the house was sinking” and they didn’t want to pay capital gains tax. Subsequent to the sale, my father told me he had “charata” about giving the house to my sister, but the transaction could not be undone. I also have to point out that this was a 4 family house with no mortgage and low real estate taxes (in Borough Park on 58th St. and 11th Ave.) which generated a substantial amount of rental income per year. There was also abasement apartment, so there were 4 rentals. After my father passed away in 2001 his apartment was also rented out so there were 5 rentals. My sister therefore received a substantial profit each year from this property, which my other sister and I never received any part of. When my sister got divorced in 1998 she became the sole owner of the house under the terms of her divorce settlement (the husband got to keep their other house which they were living in). My sister sold the house in June of 2015 for $1,400,000.

I have begun to feel resentful of the fact that my sister wound up making about $1.2 million on the house, besides the extra profits she received for nearly 20 years, which I never got any part of. I feel there was an element of trickery involved in how she obtained the house and took advantage of my father, who was about 86 years old at the time. I do not know if she did anything wrong halachacally, since he did agree to this by signing over to her the deed to the house, and this was done several years before he died, so it would be considered a gift to her while he was still alive and not an inheritance. However, I still wanted to know what the halacha is in terms of whether my sister and I are entitled to any portion of he $1.2 million profit on the sale of the house or the rental profits she received over the years. I am nearing 65, and would have wanted to retire within the next couple of years, but I would not have nearly enough money to support myself or my wife based on our current retirement savings.

Answer:

It does not seem there is much to do except to be happy with your lot. If your father was sound of mind and didn’t predicate that he is only doing this because the building is sinking and it wasn’t true then you don’t seem to have a case and even if you do have a case you probably can’t prove anything and will be just making a fight for nothing. Maybe a wiser act would be to ask her nicely if she can help you to invest money in a manner that would give you income

Yosef Fleischman

 

Tags: Inheritance

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