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Each of the three sibling would get an equal share of the total value of the estate, with the two siblings splitting the cottage.Diane Labombarbe/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The question

My mother recently passed away and left her estate equally to her three children. The issue is the family cottage. It was worded that we each have the equal rights to it. The issue is that my sister does not want the cottage but my brother and I do. How should things be divided then? The other investment assets are worth about $900,000 and the cottage is $300,000.

The answer

It is a fairly straight forward answer. The total value of the estate, (assuming this is the net amount after taxes, debts are paid, etc. for simplicity sake) is $1,200,000. This amount divided by three means that each of you should inherit $400,000 worth of assets. Since two of you want the cottage each of you would get half ownership of it being $150,000 of value and $250,000 of investment assets or equivalent cash. Your sister would get $400,000 of the investment assets or cash and not any share of the cottage. Each of you are getting $400,000 worth of value but in different forms.

I don't know what the full situation is but my words of advice are to focus on working out things in the most amicable way. I have seen several families torn apart by disagreements over estates. In the end family is more important than possessions and money.

Nancy Woods is an associate portfolio manager and investment adviser with RBC Dominion Securities Inc. Visit her website or send an email request to You can also send your questions to