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Corona Partition Lawyers

The city of Corona is located in the heart of Southern California and is frequently referred to as the “Circle City” due to the unique layout of its streets. As a diverse and well-educated city, many of Corona’s residents venture into the real estate market with one another. These relationships, although fruitful, may turn burdensome on the parties over time if they disagree on what to do with their shared property. These situations can often be solved with a partition action. An experienced Corona Partition Lawyer will give the best guidance when joint ownership situations require judicial action. Corona Partition Attorneys usually find partition actions to be the best remedy for joint owners in disputes in four broad categories:

  • Parent-Child shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Brother-Sister shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Investor-Investor shared tenants in common in real estate; and
  • Significant others shared tenants in common in real estate;
What is a Partition Action in California?

Partition is a court-ordered process where a property owner forces a sale of jointly owned real estate. Essentially, a partition action exists to allows people who own real estate together to take their share of the equity and go their separate ways. But, as simple as this seems, partition actions can often become complex lawsuits. Disputes commonly arise as to what type of partition may be sought and the process for determining ownership interests.

For example, “Julie” bought a house with her boyfriend, “Shawn,” thinking that they would get married one day. Later, after they had bought the house, Julie realized that her boyfriend was not the right person for her. Because Julie wanted to move on in her life, she also wanted to sell the house she bought with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, however, was mad at Julie for breaking up with him, and so refused to agree to sell the house. Because they were not married, Julie could not go to a divorce lawyer, and because they both did not agree to sell, a realtor could not help Julie. Julie felt trapped. Julie then, however, found a partition lawyer and was able to get the house sold so she could move on with her life. A partition lawyer got the job done. The best Corona Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What are the steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, the first step in the partition lawsuit process is not a lawsuit, but an earnest attempt to resolve the matter informally, such as through a partition agreement. Only when it is clear that litigation is the only option, is it clear that a partition lawsuit is appropriate.

When it is clear that a partition lawsuit is necessary, then the process begins with the filing of a complaint in the county where the property is located. There are several technical requirements for the partition complaint, and many important steps that must be taken during the lawsuit to ensure that the process is managed effectively.

In a partition lawsuit, there are generally four different steps. First, the court determines each party's ownership interests. Second, the court will decide on the manner of sale. Third, the court will order the property be sold. Fourth, the proceeds from the sale will be divided between the parties based on their relative contributions to the property.

While some may believe that inherited property cannot be partitioned, this is incorrect. Instead, when the property is owned as the result of an inheritance, there may be an additional step for an appraisal, and a right of first refusal, as provided by the Uniform Partition of Heirs Act. Under this act, where a co-tenant requests partition by sale, the law gives the non-partition owner the option to buy all of the interests of the co-tenants who requested the sale. A top Corona Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can you recover attorneys’ fees in a partition action?

Section 874.040 gives courts only two options in apportioning the costs and fees of partition: by ownership interest or by some other equitable apportionment. (see Finney v. Gomez (2003) 111 Cal.App.4th 527, 545 (Finney).)

Notably, appellate courts have found the statutory language of Section 874.040 to give courts broad and equitable discretion. (Lin v. Jeng (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1008.) This sentiment that the record must support the allocation of attorney’s fees in an amount greater than disclosed by title is echoed in Stutz, where the appellate court held the trial court erred in apportioning 100% of the attorney’s fees and costs of a partition to the respondent. The appellate court recognized that trial courts are free to apportion fees and costs in an equitable manner yet held that the record must support such an arrangement in “any manner other than according to the respective interests of the parties in the property.” (Stutz, 122 Cal.App.3d 1, 5.)

For example, where a party refuses to simply resolve the issue where the other party was willing to sell, then a court has the authority to order a different amount of fees than disclosed by title. (Forrest v. Elam (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 164, 174.) In other words, the resistance to selling the property may be a factor that a court considers in awarding attorneys’ fees in a partition action. A knowledgeable Corona Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What are claims for “contribution”?

Code of Civil Procedure section 874.140 states that the “court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustments among the parties according to the principles of equity.”

The court in Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24 stated that the payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be subject to reimbursement. These claims for reimbursement are commonly known as “offsets” in a partition action.

Further, the court under Milian v. De Leon (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1185, announced that a co-tenant who expends money for the preservation of the property, or with the [acceptance] of their co-tenant(s), is entitled to reimbursement for those expenditures before the division of the proceeds among the property owners.

That is, the general rule is that compensatory adjustments are appropriate for improvements that enhance the value of the property for all owners’ benefit. (see Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) An experienced Corona Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Clark v. Carter:

There are generally two ways people can own property with others: tenancy-in-common and joint tenancy. Joint tenancy ownership is when the co-owners split the rights to the property equally. Joint tenancy also gives a right to survivorship, where a surviving owner can acquire a deceased owner’s interest.

The right to survivorship is what makes joint tenancy especially appealing for couples, but it can also create headaches if relationships turn south. There are several ways a joint tenant can legally end the joint tenancy without the consent of the other joint tenant. In a lawsuit over real property it is important that parties know if the proper actions were taken, bec

Lawrence Clark and his wife Lottie Clark bought the property at issue in Clark v. Carter (1968) 265 Cal.App.2d 291, together as joint tenants. (Id., at 293.) In 1964, the Clarks got a note secured by the property’s deed of trust for $34,700.

Lottie died in February 1966. (Id.) Before she died, Lottie filed a quitclaim deed and an assignment of property interest. (Id.) The quitclaim deed and assignment were filed to transfer Lottie’s interest from herself as a joint tenant, to herself as a tenant-in-common. (Id.) Charles H. Carter was the administrator of Lottie’s estate. (Id.) These actions were apparently attempts to terminate the joint tenancy. (Id.)

Lawrence did not know about Lottie’s actions, and he filed an affidavit to terminate the joint tenancy himself. (Id.) When he found out about his wife’s actions, Lawrence sued Carter. (Id.)

The trial court concluded that Lawrence was the sole owner of the property and the note secured by the deed of trust. (Id.) The trial court also ruled that the quitclaim deed and the assignment did not sever the joint tenancy, even though Lottie may have intended them to. (Id.) Carter appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Clark is about the intricacies of joint tenancies. When it comes to joint tenancies, there are very specific ways a joint tenancy can be terminated. Though intention of the action can matter, the action itself and the result are highly relevant for a court to decide if a joint tenancy was severed or not. If the action is not quite in line with the proper legal process, then it may not be sufficient for terminating a joint tenancy.

Carter argued that Lottie’s quitclaim deed and assignment were sufficient to sever the joint tenancy. (Id., at 294.) The original joint tenancy deed created an assumption that the property is held in joint tenancy, and Lottie’s actions were insufficient evidence to breach that assumption. (Id., 295.) The Court of Appeal wrote:

“Furthermore, although a joint tenancy deed is not conclusive as to the character of real property, it creates a rebuttable presumption that it is held in joint tenancy, and such presumption cannot be overcome by testimony in a divorce action of the hidden intentions of one of the parties, but only by evidence tending to prove a common understanding or an agreement that the character of the property was to be other than joint tenancy . . . The filing of a partition action for the purpose of terminating a joint tenancy is not sufficient to terminate the relationship in the event the joint tenant filing the action in partition dies before the granting of the judgment. . .” (Id.)

There are four elements required for a joint tenancy: unity of interest, unity of title, unity of time, and unity of possession. (Id., at 294.) If any one of these elements is not present, then there cannot be a joint tenancy. (Id.) There are many actions one can take to breach an element and sever joint tenancy. (Id.)

For one, a joint tenant can terminate the joint tenancy by conveying all of the joint tenant’s interest to someone else without the consent of the other joint tenant. (Id.) Similarly, the joint tenancy can end when a joint tenant conveys all of his interest to the other joint tenant. (Id.) In addition, a joint tenant can sever the joint tenancy by transferring his entire interest to a trustee. (Id.) A joint tenancy can also be severed by a partition judgment. (Id.) Lottie, however, had transferred her interest to herself. (Id., at 293.)

Carter contended that a joint tenancy could end when a joint tenant transfers the interest to herself as a tenant-in-common. (Id.) Under California law, however, a transfer of property assumes there are at least two parties, the grantor and the grantee. (Id.) The grantor and the grantee cannot be the same person. (Id.)

In a previous case brought before the Court of Appeal, a wife’s attorney conveyed the wife’s joint tenancy interest to a third-party attorney, who later reconveyed that interest back to the wife. (Id., at 296.) This was done without the other joint tenant’s knowledge and consent, but the Court of Appeal held in this case that the wife had terminated the joint tenancy. (Id.) This case acknowledged that the grantor and grantee must be separate people. (Id.)

After re-visiting this previous ruling and walking through other case law, the Court of Appeal concluded that Lottie did not terminate the joint tenancy by transferring title to herself. (Id.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Clark shows how strictly courts adhere to the legal process when deciding on the severance of joint tenancies. If Lottie had tranferred her interest to a third-party, rather than to herself, then the joint tenancy would have ended. Since Lottie’s maneuvers did not fit the law exactly, however, her actions ultimately failed to sever the joint tenancy.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Clark, the type of co-ownership over real estate can have a huge effect on a party’s legal case. If the parties were tenants in common, the legal arguments would be wildly different compared to if the parties were joint tenants. Understanding the parties’ ownership relationship with each other and finding the right law to apply is essential to one’s case.

Here at Underwood Law Firm, our knowledgeable attorneys are here to help navigate the complex web of case law and statutes surrounding partitions. If you are trying to plan a partition order, or just have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office.

Learn more here.

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