When initiating our partition action, we knew that one of the owners had died unexpectedly, but we didn’t know the rest of the story – that he died intestate (without a will), that he was married and that his estate had not been probated even though he’d be deceased for over ten years.
We could not probate his estate because probate must be carried out by somebody who has legal standing and knowledge about the individual. In an attempt to resolve the issue, we researched to find out who his heirs were. That’s when we discovered that he had been married. We also knew his father.
Because his wife was of foreign decent, she did not communicate well and also was suspicious of our attempts. She also commented that she did not wish to give the property up because her deceased husband’s ashes were on the property.
We were very discouraged by these road blocks. She refused to respond to our notices, letters and direct communications. Because of her failure to respond we were forced to advertise for possible heirs and also post the ten parcels. She defaulted on responding to the suit so the judge’s final decision did not include her input.
Our attorney concluded that the only way to resolve the issue was to approach the judge with a plan to determine that our deceased co-owner had died without any known heirs and that the court should take over his estate’s share in ownership of the property.
We accomplished the necessary noticing and advertising and the stipulated judgment for partition states that we will receive title to the property and initiate what is called an “interpleader” action and deposit the purchase price with the Court to be held for the heirs or devisees of our deceased co-owner.
It is our responsibility to initiate this interpleader action and deposit the necessary funds. After we take the steps necessary to notify the heirs of the deceased partner we will be released from any further participation. In the mean time we have clear title and can wrap up the suit.
This mess demonstrates just one of the major issues that can arise from co-ownership without a written partnership agreement. If the heirs of a coowner don’t take the proper legal steps to probate upon death of a co-owner, it will end up being your problem too. This type of legal action is very expensive and very time consuming.