Our Blog

Read the Latest News

In Iowa, even if you are a confirmed spinster or bachelor, you can participate in a divorce of sorts. No , not talking about common law marriage (which is a thing in Iowa, but no, it isn’t based on years of cohabitation), we are talking about real estate partition actions.

When you inherit property or buy property with someone else, you don’t have to keep owning it with them. You can ask the court to split it up. Starting in 1943 and until about ten years ago, the court took a real simple position in most matters, sell it and split dollars was the preferred solution. Shazam. Even if the majority of other states didn’t roll like that.

The Iowa legislature, in their never-ending fondness for farms, reset the rules and now parceling out the land in parcels to each is the starting point if the land ownership came from family members. Special rules now come into play when the co-owners are relatives, and they received the property from a relative (living or dead) and no prior agreement binds the co tenants to how they will divide up the ground.

That means lawyers for the owners, a referee (who could be another lawyer or a real estate agent) and an appraiser are all going to skim a fee out of the land in one shape or another. Just like a divorce, “what’s fair” is in play with the court’s decisions. Similar to a custody evaluator, the referee makes a recommendation to the court on how to split the land which may or may not make one or more of the parties happy or angry and bitter for days on end. The parallels to family law can’t be overlooked.

The code goes on to lay out special provisions unlike most court cases, with decrees required at various stage to determine if the dirt is special family dirt, or if it is not. Then a referee and appraisal have to be had and then a fair market determination has to be made. This all takes time. The trend seems to be towards the referee having to rent the property out for one or more growing seasons while the parties duke it out with competing appraisals and proposals.

The current court scheduling system largely is not equipped to handle the special timing and decrees required. Each court district has a different take on scheduling these matters, it is not a simple as a picking a day on the court calendar and duking it out with your brother and sister over who gets Grandma’s orchard and who gets stuck with Uncle Fester’s swamp pond. The Iowa Supreme Court is spending a lot of time sorting out the new law change and how it is to be applied. Recently it determined that a trust set up in a will with a division protocol was a binding agreement that precluded the use of the statute to divide the court. The Court of Appeals has also weighed in saying a combination of sale of land and allocation of parcels is acceptable. Getting these courts to give their opinion on the law takes yet more time, and lawyers and dollars.

As a result, parties itching to pick a fight with co-owners would be wise to consider finding an agreement that suits all the various parties. The sign of a good agreement is that no body is entirely happy or entirely honked off.

Again, the parallel universe of divorce court is looking at the dirt and same welcome to the mudslinging.

Saturday, July 13, 2024
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
  • Tori Beyer
Dillon Law PC
Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
Dillon Law PC
Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill is a firm owner but not currently accepting private pay clients. Jill still has ties to her family farm operation which includes a dairy herd.
Dillon Law PC
Tori is a University of Iowa undergraduate where she double majored in Criminology, Justice, and Law and Ethics and Public Policy and a North Dakota Law School graduate. Tori practices in the Sumner office. Tori's areas of practice include but are not limited to estate planning, wills/probate, criminal defense, and civil litigation.

File Your Federal and State Taxes Online