No one wants to be stuck owning property with people they don’t get along with. But you also don’t want a piece of land to come between you and your loved ones. When you are in conflict over a home, land, or other real property, a Florida partition action may be the solution.
What is a Florida Partition Action?
To understand what a partition action is, you need to know a little about how multiple people can own the same piece of land or property. In Florida, co-owners can possess property as:
- Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship: Where each party has an “undivided interest” in the property as a whole and inherits each other’s interests when they die.
- Tenants in Common: Where each party retains a specific amount of ownership interests, which may be different from one another.
- Tenants by the Entirety: Where spouses share an undivided interest in property with full inheritance rights.
Tenancy in common can happen many different ways:
- Unmarried partners may buy a home together
- Spouses may purchase property jointly and then get a divorce
- Business partners may go in together on a piece of property for business purposes
- Family members may inherit property as a class (such as “to my children”)
But sometimes co-ownership can become a problem. One heir may even want to refuse their inheritance. A partition action (or partition lawsuit) is a complaint that one or more property owners can file in the Florida courts, asking the court to divide up jointly owned property.
When Should You File a Partition Lawsuit?
A Florida partition lawsuit should be treated as a last resort among co-owners. However, if you and your co-tenants can’t agree on how the property should be used or sold, Florida law can resolve that dispute and help the parties split up their assets.
What Happens When the Court Partitions Joint Property?
Florida law creates 3 possible outcomes of partition actions:
- Partition by physical division: Where the court divides undeveloped rural land into separate parcels.
- Partition by sale: Where the Court orders the co-owned property to be sold and the proceeds split according to their ownership percentage.
- Partition by appraisal: Where the co-owner wishing to leave the co-tenancy may sell their share of the property to their co-owners at a price set using an appraisal.
Florida courts generally only use partition by physical division for undeveloped land. That’s because once there is a home or structure on the property, that portion of the land is worth more than the yard or acreage around it. Partition by sale is the most common when partition actions go to trial. Partition by appraisal is more common when the parties are able to settle while the case is pending.
How to File a Complaint for Partition of an Inherited Property
Any person with an ownership interest can file a complaint to partition jointly owned property. The complaint must list each other owner, as well as any tenants on the property or other interested parties (such as a surviving spouse). These co-owners will be defendants in the partition lawsuit. The complaint must also list each party’s percentage of ownership.
Unless you are asking for the property to be sold, you will need to have the property appraised to determine its value. If the property was recently part of an estate administration, you may be able to rely on the appraisal done for the probate court unless the value of the property has changed in the meantime.
It is a good idea for family members, especially, to try to negotiate how the property will be partitioned, rather than leaving the decision up to the Florida courts. Co-owners may well have relationships and financial circumstances that need to be considered above and beyond the dollar value of each person’s ownership interests. For example, if three siblings inherit the family home, but only one lives in-state or wants to live in the home, the partition action may be resolved by allowing the in-state sibling to buy out the other two’s property interests either with a loan, or in payments over time. Partition actions can take one to two years to go through trial – on top of any time taken to administer your loved one’s estate – so trying to negotiate or even mediate your property dispute can allow family members to move on sooner, without going to trial.
If you can’t resolve your partition action yourselves, the Court will make a ruling, choosing one of the three possible outcomes described above. The Court may order any sale or transfer of property interest be done under the Court’s supervision. However, if the Court orders a partition by sale, it will still be up to the parties to actually arrange for a realtor to list the property, make it available for showings, and ultimately sign the paperwork at closing.
Get Help with Your Partition Action Today
If you and your relatives or co-owners can’t agree on what to do with property you have inherited, you may need to go back to court to resolve what happens to the land. At Harrison Estate Law, P.A., our experienced probate litigation team understands how and when to use a partition action to settle beneficiaries’ property interests and get you the relief you need. Contact us here or call 352-290-7579 to get help today.