How to Partition Undivided Ownership

By Marie Murdock
Methods for partitioning land ownership may vary.

Countryside land image by Rose from Fotolia.com

You may have acquired an undivided interest in property jointly with a spouse or other people either intentionally through a deed or unintentionally by inheritance. Each person may have their idea of how the property or proceeds from a sale should be divided. If you are lucky, all owners will reach an agreement and the division will occur amicably. If you are not so fortunate, however, you may be subject to arguments and claims of unfairness. Whether partitioned by agreement or forced sale, there are ways to acquire a separate interest in jointly owned property or at least your share of the proceeds from its sale.

Sell and split the proceeds by agreement upon locating a buyer for the property. If you and your spouse are divorcing with jointly owned property, have your attorney prepare a separation agreement to become part of your divorce decree stating that the property will be sold and the proceeds either divided equally or in whatever percentages the two of you establish. Alternatively, you may have inherited property along with your siblings upon a parent's death. If all family members have agreed to sell the property, have your attorney prepare a deed for all siblings or the personal representative of the deceased parent's estate to sign conveying to the purchaser. If property is sold after a death, the proceeds will either be split equally among siblings or according to the terms of a will.

Hire a surveyor and an appraiser if it is the intent of the owners to divide the property into equally agreed upon ownership shares. It will be necessary to work closely with the surveyor and appraiser to make sure that each parcel of land surveyed has a value that equals the correct ownership share for each individual. For example, a parcel with direct road frontage may have a greater value than a back parcel with an ingress and egress easement for access. Therefore the back parcel may be allotted more acreage than a road frontage parcel. This method will be more complicated than a sale and will incur surveying and appraisal expenses. However, if the property is family land and the parties do not want it conveyed to third parties, this may be an option.

Petition the court for a sale for division or a final decree of divorce awarding shares of the property. If the property cannot be amicably divided or there are title issues in which each individual's exact ownership interest cannot be determined or one of the parties refuses to agree to the sale to a bona fide purchaser to the detriment of the other owners, the court may enter an order for division or a final divorce decree establishing the disposition of the property. If any of the parties refuse to convey their interest, the court may enter an order vesting title or authorizing the clerk of court to convey the interest of the refusing party by clerk's deed.

About the Author

Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.

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