Real estate is often the most valuable portion of any inheritance. However, when a landowner passes away, their heirs may not agree on the best way to preserve a home, family farm, or commercial plot. One child may want to sell it, while another seeks to save it for future generations.
If the heirs cannot reach an understanding, one of the beneficiaries may petition the court to partition the property, potentially forcing a sale.
Partition by Licitation in Louisiana
When children inherit their parents’ lands in Louisiana, they are considered “owners in indivision.”
However, the Bayou State’s legal doctrine suggests that nobody—no matter the circumstances—should be compelled to own or share a property with another person. So, if an heir owns an undivided interest in the land, they always have the option to transfer it to another owner or to sell it.
When a co-owner wants to sell their property interest—even against the wishes of the other heirs—they can force a partition. Louisiana broadly recognizes two forms of partition:
- Partition in kind. Since Louisiana law affords property owners the right to protest coercive or unwanted living arrangements, an heir may request that the court petition the property in kind. If the court grants this petition, it will partition the property by acreage, allocating plots to each owner in accordance with their share interest.
- Partition by licitation. An heir may also petition the court for a petition by licitation, which could force a sale of the land, even if the other co-owner does not wish to part with the property. However, partitions by licitation are still subject to some restrictions. Before approving a petition, the court will typically consider whether the sale of the property, and the division of any subsequent proceeds, would be more equitable to the owners than a simple division of the property. When a partition by licitation is approved, the property is put up for auction and must be sold to the highest bidder.
What to Discuss With Your Attorney
When an heir petitions the court to partition an estate property, they are technically initiating a probate lawsuit. Before filing a legal complaint, consult an experienced estate litigation attorney to determine if:
- You have the standing to file a partition claim. In general, partition lawsuits can only be filed by the co-owner of an inherited or jointly owned property. If the property is still in probate and has not yet been transferred to the heirs, the beneficiaries will not have standing to petition for a partition. However, they may be able to file a challenge against the executor or another party if the title transfer is taking an unreasonably long time.
- You have the time, money, and energy to fight a lawsuit. Partition requests can be complicated and time-consuming. If your petition is successful, the court may award you attorney’s fees and other legal relief. However, you should always carefully consider the potential outcomes of the lawsuit before filing a claim.
- You are willing to negotiate an alternate resolution. Filing a lawsuit against a sibling, surviving parent, or family friend can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Often, these legal complications can undermine a family’s unity and harm long-standing relationships. Depending on your needs, an estate litigation attorney could assist in arranging a more amicable means for a resolution such as mediation or third-party arbitration.
- You have prepared for the unexpected. Compelling a partition of a property can have unexpected consequences. Aside from potential family disputes, the sudden sale of a real property or home could result in massive, unavoidable tax obligations. Before filing a partition request, you should discuss the financial implications with your attorney.
Contact a Louisiana Succession Lawyer Today
Scott Vicknair’s Succession Practice has decades of experiencing aggressively advocating for the rights of Louisiana heirs and beneficiaries. If you have no choice but to take a loved one to court, our firm can help you handle your claim with compassion, understanding, and care. Please call us at 504-264-1057 to schedule your consultation.