Washington Enacts the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
A “partition” is a legal action that involves multiple owners as tenants in common of a parcel of real estate. It is governed by statute, RCW chapter 7.52. Generally, the purpose of a partition is to divide the property so that each owner owns a distinct portion rather than sharing ownership of the larger parcel. The statute expresses a preference for partition “in kind,” meaning a division of the property itself. However, if that cannot be done “without great prejudice to the owners,” the court can order the property sold and the proceeds divided among the owners according to their proportionate interests in the property. For example, some properties would be difficult to partition in kind, such as a single family residence; a parcel that, if divided, would not satisfy applicable land use requirements for the resulting lots; or a parcel with varying characteristics in different areas of the parcel (e.g. wetlands, ravines, flat ground with fertile soil) such that separate portions of equal value could not be set off for each of the owners.
Effective July 23, 2023, Washington enacted the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, codified as RCW chapter 7.54. “Heirs property” is real estate that is held in tenancy in common by multiple parties and meets certain requirements, including that twenty percent or more of the interests are held by co-tenants who are relatives, or twenty percent or more of the interests are held by an individual who acquired title from a relative, or twenty percent or more of the co-tenants are relatives. The term “relatives” is broadly defined. If a court determines that property is “heirs property,” the property must be partitioned under RCW chapter 7.54 unless all of the co-tenants otherwise agree in writing.
RCW chapter 7.54 provides a resolution method that is not available under RCW chapter 7.52. This chapter provides a detailed process that allows co-tenants who did not request partition by sale to buy out the interests of co-tenants who requested partition by sale after the value of the property has been determined. The chapter also provides alternatives if the buy out process does not result in buy out of all the interests of all co-tenants otherwise provided in the chapter. These alternatives include the partition in kind and partition by sale provided in RCW chapter 7.52.
If you need assistance with these issues, contact Per Oscarsson or one of the other attorneys in Beresford Booth’s Business and Real Estate Group.