Florida Probate Code Section 733.814 allows the personal representative or a beneficiary of an estate to initiate a “partition action” to split property between beneficiaries.
It reads as follows:
“When two or more beneficiaries are entitled to distribution of undivided interests in any property, the personal representative or any beneficiary may petition the court before the estate is closed to partition the property in the same manner as provided by law for civil actions of partition. The court may direct the personal representative to sell any property that cannot be partitioned without prejudice to the owners and that cannot be allotted equitably and conveniently.”
What Is a Partition Action or Partition Lawsuit?
A partition action is a legal proceeding that allows the co-owner of property to obtain a court order to either divide the property into separate parcels for each owner or sell the property and split the proceeds. Probate Code Section 733.814 specifically deals with partition actions for properties that are jointly inherited. It allows the personal representative to request partition, as well as any beneficiary who is to inherit the property.
This provision often comes into play when children of a deceased person jointly inherit the family home. If even one child wants to sell the home, they can use Probate Code Section 733.814 to request partition. Because residential homes can rarely be divided into separate parcels, the most common outcome is that the court orders the personal representative to sell the home and divide the proceeds among the beneficiaries.
Can a Beneficiary Stop a Partition Action?
While there may be defenses to make against a partition action, typically, a beneficiary cannot stop a partition action simply by objecting to it. This is because the law strongly favors the “alienability” of property, which is legal jargon that means the unrestricted right to transfer property. If the co-owner of property wants to sell or otherwise transfer it, a partition action allows them to do so no matter what the other co-owners might desire.
However, beneficiaries who want to stop the sale of an inherited property may be able to negotiate a deal with their joint beneficiaries. For instance, the beneficiary that wants to keep the property may be able to buy out the other co-owners, either outright or through a payment plan, to secure full title to the property. Another common arrangement is for the beneficiary who wants to keep the property to cede other estate property to the other beneficiaries in exchange for their shares of the property.
When Should I Contact a Probate Litigation Attorney?
You should contact a probate litigation attorney if you expect to inherit a property along with other beneficiaries who may not want to jointly own the property, or who do not agree on whether to sell the property.
A probate litigation lawyer can help you pursue or defend against a partition action. Importantly your attorney can also help you negotiate an alternative arrangement with your co-beneficiaries that allows you to avoid partition. This can help save money and keep your relationships with your co-beneficiaries intact. It’s vital that you contact a lawyer promptly to ensure that your interests are fully protected.
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