Partition Actions Involving Inherited Properties

Real estate partition actions are one area that is not traditionally thought of as the probate litigation arena, but it does arise on occasion. In some cases, disputes over ownership of property will arise after property has been inherited by two or more beneficiaries. Sometimes despite careful estate planning, arguments over real property still occur; for example, when parents leave a valuable piece of land to multiple children. When these children are bequeathed the property with joint ownership (with equal interests in the property), then the children can argue over how the property is to be used, who is to use it, or whether or not the property should be sold. Sometimes these matters are unresolved and require court intervention through what is called a partition action.

Partition claims in New Hampshire are either handled by the Superior Court or the Probate Division of the Circuit Court, depending on which court has jurisdiction over the matter. In partition actions the court will take a host of factors into account when determining which resolution would be the most reasonable. The court may weigh certain factors such as the ownership interests of all parties, the contributions made to the maintenance and improvement of the property, any contractual arrangements and any other relevant factors. For example, if one party has invested significantly more capital into the property over another party, or if there is another agreement addressing the percentage of ownership, then the court may take those factors into account before rendering a judgment.

Essentially, the court will seek to arrive at a remedy which will physically divide the real estate in a manner that remains consistent with the ownership interests; however, often times real estate cannot easily be divided, especially if there is a house on the property. In such cases where it's impossible or inconvenient to divide property, the court may determine that the entire property go to one party and he or she pay the others a fair amount for their share, or the court may determine that a "forced sale" of the property is in order, in which case the court forces the parties to sell the property, with the proceeds being distributed according to the property interests of the parties.

In the court's eyes, there can definitely be foreseeable difficulties with assigning the entire property to one property over another; therefore, the simpler remedy is to order the forced sale of the property. The court does have the authority to force the parties to sell, and any property owner who is seeking a partition remedy must be aware and willing to accept that the court may force the owners to sell the property and distribute the proceeds accordingly.

Whether you expect that a dispute may arise with co-owners over property, or if you are already engaged in a dispute over how to use inherited property, please contact a New Hampshire probate litigation attorney from Hebert & Dolder. We can provide you with the information you need to proceed in the direction that will help you reach the most optimum solution.

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