If I had a list of phrases I expect to rarely hear, “friendly partition suit” would certainly be one of those phrases. Partition suits generally result from real estate that heirs cannot decide how to “partition” fairly after the death of the owner. Death and money tend to not bring out the best in people.

But anything is possible and I should not conclude that the Quincy Daily Journal was being sarcastic when it referred this 1924 partition suit between the heirs of Bernard Dirks as being friendly.

There is not a special name partition-friendlyfor a partition suit that is friendly. A partition suit is a partition suit. However in this case, it may be that the case was friendly. What is known are the facts of the case. No one from the case is alive today to ask whether it was actually friendly or not.

The case was an apparent necessity, largely for two reasons:

  • there were twenty-two heirs
  • some of the heirs were minors

Dividing up eighty acres among twenty-two heirs is probably nearly impossible when all the heirs receive an equal share. These heirs did not which only compounded the problem. The various sizes of the estate were:

  • 16/63 to one son
  • 9/63 to four daughters each
  • 2/63 split among eight grandchildren
  • 9/63 split among another nine grandchildren

That’s going to be hard to accomplish with only eighty acres.

Actually that’s going to be virtually impossible to accomplish with eighty acres. That’s one reason why a partition suit needed to be brought.

The other issue was that some of the seventeen grandchildren who were heirs of Bernard Dirks were minors. They could not execute legal documents in their own right. Even if the heirs could have worked out some arrangement among themselves regarding the property (eg. another heir agreed to purchase the property at an agreed upon price), the minor heirs could not have executed any deeds to finalize that sale.

The partition suit was a legal necessity.

The newspaper did get one detail wrong: the case was actually Janssen versus Dirks (case file 5228 from the Adams County, Illinois, Circuit Court) and not Johnson versus Dirks.  A minor detail as Janssen frequently gets anglicized as Johnson.

The newspaper (and the court records themselves) left out another detail: what actually precipitated the case. Bernard Dirks died in 1913. His widow, Heipke, who lived on the farm after his death, died in 1924. She would have had the right to remain on the farm for the duration of her life. Her death was the actual catalyst for the case.

It’s always worth noting that court records frequently leave out the details we would like to know the most.

Like just how “friendly” the partition suit actually was.

 

 

 

 

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7 Responses

  1. What is the difference between a quit claim filing and a so-called friendly law suit as discussed here?

    • A quit claim deed drawn up after the surviving spouse dies can be done if all the heirs agree upon a price and if all the heirs are legally able to execute a deed. Usually these quit claim deeds are transferring ownership to one of the other heirs.

      This “friendly” partition suit was probably done for the reasons discussed in the post–minor heirs and the probability that the farm could not be equitably divided amongst the heirs.

  2. The newspaper article contains a word that I often have to explain when I use it. The farm was a half-mile off the “hard” road. To Illinois farmers that meant it was off the cement highway. My dad and uncle hauled gravel from our woods to the hard road that the state constructed near our farm. And dad always called it the hard road…and so did I, of course. But since he has been gone nearly 35 years, I don’t hear that word so often anymore. I surely recognize it immediately tho. Our farm is about a half-mile off hard road #34.

    • I still use that phrase, usually to refer to a cement highway as opposed to a blacktop or asphalt road. My grandmother always referred to the highway (Illinois State Highway 94) as the “slab,” but I also heard it referred to as the hard road. Where I grew up that was the only nearby road (other than those in town) that was not gravel…so using “hard road” made sense. Know I use it just to confuse my children 😉

  3. I love the reference in the article to the “hard road”. My grandmother, who lived in Gillespie, IL always took us out for a ride on the “hard” (paved) road to distinguish it from the gravel road. The hard road had ups and downs and she would, “go fast” and make our stomachs rise up and down which resulted in many giggles. Thanks for the memory.

  4. I did not see a definition of “friendly” or “partition” — I take “friendly” to be no opposition, and “partition” to split up or liquidate. So, I surmise they agreed on the sale [and then split the money], but as there were minor children, a court had to rule on their behalf.

    According to Gregory Haubrich, Attorney, Oklahoma City [I picked this one as we graduated from the same high school]
    “Children, including young adults, get special protection from the law. One of those results in the “friendly suit”. The law requires us to bring any settlement on behalf of a minor in front of a judge to decide two things: first, is the settlement in the best interest of the child? and second, if so, to approve the settlement and order the child’s money to be put in a federally insured savings account, not to be withdrawn until the child turns 18.”
    https://greghaubrich.com/2013/11/16/what-the-heck-is-a-friendly-lawsuit/

    • Thanks. I’m fairly certain the minor heirs were the issue in this case. There were two sets of grandchildren who survived the Heipke Dirks (the widow whose death precipitated the lawsuit) and some of those heirs were in Illinois and some were in Nebraska. Waiting until the youngest reached the age of majority probably wasn’t a realistic option either.

      The sale was a practical necessity given the number of heirs and the size of the property in question.

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