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By Attorney Stephen L. Lovell

There are often occasions when one may share ownership of real estate with another person.   Many times, that business or personal relationship will run its course.   However, that does not solve the problem of what to do with the real estate.   When at least two co-owners of real property cannot agree on how best to use or dispose of a piece of real estate, either of them can seek partition.

What is Partition?

In Wisconsin, every co-owner who no longer wishes to own their interest in the real estate has a right to partition their interest in the property, no matter what ownership percentage of the property they own. Chapter 842 of the Wisconsin Statutes governs the partition of real estate in Wisconsin.

A partition can be done voluntarily, where all the co-owners agree to divide the real estate among themselves by exchanging individual deeds and terminating their undivided interests in the whole property. Sometimes in cases of dividing property, however, the co-owners cannot agree how to divide the property, so a partition action must be done judicially through litigation. These types of actions are typically seen in cases where siblings co-own an inherited property, or an unmarried couple decides to end their relationship. A partition action is a legal process where a court either physically divides the property between the co-owners or sells the property and divides the proceeds of the sale between the co-owners.

In the event you are faced with needing to partition real estate, whether you expect an agreeable division or dispute to be resolved by litigation, it is best to seek a Wisconsin lawyer experienced in handling partition disputes. 

Types Of Partition Actions

There are two main types of partition of real estate, partition in kind and partition by sale.

            Partition In Kind: The property will be physically divided up between the property co-owners by giving separate parcels to each co-owner based on their respective ownership percentages. Partition in kind is common when the parcel of land can be easily divided into plots of nearly equal value, such as with vacant land. Courts typically will not use partition in kind if each co-owner would receive a parcel of land worth considerably less than if the property was sold and the proceeds were divided between the co-owners based each owner’s ownership percentage.

            Partition By Sale: The entire property will be sold, and the proceeds of the sale will be divided between the co-owners according to their respective ownership percentages. Partition by sale is common when a property cannot be physically divided into separate parts or when the total value of the property divided into parcels would be worth substantially less compared to the value of the entire property as one parcel. Not all the co-owners may be willing to sell the property, but a co-owner may still force a sale of the property if the court finds the sale will result in a more equitable outcome for the co-owners than physically dividing the property. Often, the sale will occur from a real estate agent the co-owners agree upon, at a public auction or by a private sale.

How To Start A Partition Action In Wisconsin

To start a partition action in Wisconsin, a co-owner will file in the county where the real estate is located naming all the co-owners of the property as defendants. Once the court approves the action, the partition action proceeds like a standard civil lawsuit.  Of course, if this is an option you are considering as a property owner, then you should contact a Wisconsin lawyer experienced in partition actions.

Contact An Experienced Wisconsin Partition Attorney

If you have questions regarding your rights co-owning real estate or how to start a partition action in Wisconsin, please contact a Mallery s.c. attorney today!

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