Question: My mother and her two brothers own 3 acres of unimproved desert land in north Scottsdale worth approximately $450,000. They have owned this three acres since the 1920s when my grandfather purchased this land. The problem now is that the property taxes have become expensive, and because my mother is elderly and lives on a fixed income, the payment of her one-third of the property taxes is becoming more difficult every year. Her two brothers do not want to sell the three acres in this depressed market. Is there any way that my mother can require the sale of these three acres?

   Answer: If your mother and her two brothers cannot agree, your mother should be able to go to court to request a partition of these three acres. If these three acres are capable of being actually partitioned — that is, the three acres are similar in topography and value — the court should order that your mother would own a specific one acre which she could then sell. Most land and other real property such as office buildings and homes, however, is too difficult to actually partition. Therefore, most partition lawsuits result in the sale of the real property. The court will appoint a special commissioner, usually a real estate broker, to conduct the sale of the real property. After the property is sold, and the costs of sale such as broker commissions and title fees have been paid, the court will authorize the special commissioner to distribute the sale proceeds in proportion to the owners of the real property.

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