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Ownership arrangements that might lead to a partition action (and who pays the attorney fees)

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2022 | Partition Actions

Perhaps the most common reason for a partition action is when multiple siblings inherit a piece of real estate from a deceased parent or other relative. This might be due to the loved one dying without a valid will (intestate) or because they could not decide which of their children should inherit the family home, vacation house, apartment building or other valuable real estate.

However, any situation in which two or more people own property can potentially lead to conflict that can require a partition action to resolve. This includes tenancy in common, joint tenancy, multiple executors with the power to sell and coparceners. A partition action is a possible solution any time multiple people own a piece of real estate together cannot agree what to do with it. Having a judge decide what to do with the property can break the deadlock and save you and your relatives years of bickering and uncertainty.

Who pays the attorney fees in a partition action?

The rule in Virginia is that each party is generally responsible for paying their individual attorney. Suppose one or more co-owners choose not to hire a lawyer. In that case, the judge has permission to order unrepresented parties to pay some of the fees in certain circumstances according to state law and the state’s supreme court decision in the Berry v Fitzhugh case.

So, you can ask the judge to have an unrepresented party pay part of your attorney’s fees, but don’t count on it automatically going your way.