Rancho Cordova Partition Lawyers

Rancho Cordova is a city in Sacramento County, about 12 miles east of the state capital of Sacramento and it was named after the local Cordova Vineyard. Rancho Cordova is an established community with old homes and newer homes. According to Redfin, in June 2023, Rancho Cordova home prices were up 0.6% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $503K. On average, homes in Rancho Cordova sell after 8 days on the market compared to 8 days last year. There were 67 homes sold in June this year, down from 87 last year. Any home buyer can encounter joint ownership problems and when that happens a partition action might be required. Often, Rancho Cordova Partition Lawyers find that joint ownership problems fall into four broad categories: 

  • Father/Mother-Son/Daughter 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
  • Non-Married Partners shared tenants in common in real estate;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

A partition action is a judicially-supervised forced sale of real estate. In California, each co-owner has an “absolute” right to partition the property. “Ordinarily, if the party seeking partition is shown to be a tenant in common, and as such entitled to the possession of the land sought to be partitioned, the right to partition is absolute, and cannot be denied, ‘either because of any supposed difficulty, nor on the suggestion that the interest of the co-tenants will be promoted by refusing the application nor temporarily postponing the action.” (Priddel v. Shankie(1945) 69 Cal.App.2d 319, 325 (emphasis added).) Thus, any owner of real estate (whether 5%, 50%, or 95%) has the right to bring a partition action in California.

Basically, any person who is an owner of real estate can bring a partition action in California. Code of Civil Procedure section 872.710, subdivision (a), states "A partition action may be commenced and maintained by any…owner of…such property." California Civil Code section 872.210 provides a property owner with the "absolute right to partition" absent a valid waiver. Thus, a partition action can be brought by anyone who no longer wants to own jointly owned real estate, other than spousal property. The best Rancho Cordova Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

First, a partition action is filed. A partition action can be filed if one co-owner of real property or a piece of real estate wishes to sell the property or piece of real estate in question but the other co-owners or co-tenants do not wish to sell their ownership rights.

Second, the court may appoint a court referee to oversee the sale of the property in question. The sales procedure includes that all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the sale in writing. If the parties can not agree, as partition actions are usually very contested issues, then the referee that the court appointed may recommend terms and conditions to the court. Then the court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to accept those terms and conditions.

Third, in California, the property’s value will be appraised via a third party or another property appraisal with no ties to any of the parties. While this is not required in all states, it is recommended to make sure that all parties are on the same metaphorical page as to the potential sale proceeds of the property in question.

Fourth, the referee will conduct the sale in the method most agreeable to all of the party’s goals. This can be via a public auction or a private sale. Regardless of the specific method of partition by sale, the court will determine if the sale was “fair.” If it is decided that the property’s sale proceeds had a lack of proper notice, the sale amount is not within reasonable the value of the property, or if the proceeds were unfair- the court would rule that the property will be up for sale again.

Lastly, the court will order that the proceeds of the sale, minus any court litigated or approved offsets or costs, will be distributed equitably amongst all of the co-owners or people with interest in the property. A top Rancho Cordova Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process. 

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action? 

Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 states that “[t]he costs of partition include: (a) [r]easonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.”  

Interestingly, the costs of partition can also include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit in prosecuting or defending other actions or proceedings for the protection, confirmation, or perfection of title, setting the boundaries, or making a survey of the property. (CCP § 874.020.)  

That attorney’s fees are considered “costs” associated with a partition action is important because Section 874.040 goes on to state the “court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” A knowledgeable Rancho Cordova Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues. 

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

An action for partition may include an accounting so that the respective rights of the parties can be adjusted and settled. (Lazzarevich v. Lazzarevich, (1952) 39 Cal. 2d 48, 50–51.) A cotenant who has advanced fund to pay common expenses is entitled to reimbursement from the sale proceeds before the balance is divided and distributed to the cotenants. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal. App. 2d 539, 541.) A cotenant out of possession can require the cotenant in possession to account for rents and profits or other compensatory adjustment in the division of sale proceeds. (CCP § 872.430.) An experienced Rancho Cordova Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters. 

A Partition Case Study: Pippins v. Estate of Young (2015) 

When a trial court orders an interlocutory judgment directing a partition by sale, they can appoint a referee to conduct the sale (CCP § 873.010). The following paragraphs discuss how the Court of Appeal determines whether a trial court abused its discretion when it ordered a partition in sale and appointed a referee without the participation of the heir of the Estate party to the litigation in Pippins v. Estate of Young(2015) 2015 WL 6150603.

In Pippins, Kathy Pippins as the administrator of the Estate of Mary Elizabeth Pippins, filed a partition action against the Estate of Christine Eileen Young. The complaint alleged that both estates were owners of real property in San Francisco and sought a partition by sale. Teal Jaa, who was the administrator of the Young Estate, filed an answer. Later in December 2012 an heir to the Young Estate, who later was the appellant, filed a motion to be added as a defendant. However, the trial court viewed the motion as one seeking intervention and denied it. 

The trial was conducted in January 2013. Jaa appeared for the Young Estate without counsel. The court ordered an interlocutory judgment and ordered the property be partitioned by sale. A partition referee was also appointed. Two months later the appellant filed a motion to vacate the interlocutory judgment because Jaa was not represented by counsel. Jaa (the respondent) stated that the appellant lacked standing to set aside the interlocutory judgment but nevertheless agreed that the interlocutory judgment should be voided. The trial court concluded that the appellant lacked standing and set aside the interlocutory judgment based on the respondent’s argument. The order set a new trial date, and both parties were served with a copy of the order. 

At the new trial, held in July 2013, there was no appearance made on behalf of the Young Estate. An interlocutory judgment was ordered again, directing the property to be partitioned by sale and the court appointed a referee. Jaa was served with the notice of the interlocutory judgment. Almost a year later in June 2014, the appellant filed a motion to set aside and vacate the judgment. The trial court denied the motion, so the appellant filed an appeal. 

The appellant contended that the interlocutory judgment should be set aside because it was the result of extrinsic fraud or mistake, or alternatively void. The appellant defined extrinsic fraud as when a party is deprived of his opportunity to present his claim or defense to the court. As such, he claimed that the interlocutory judgment was based on extrinsic fraud because he was not a party in the partition action. The Court of Appeal for the First District disagreed.

The Court of Appeal first looked to Probate Code section 9820 that says that the personal representative of an estate may defend the actions and proceedings against the decedent, the personal representative, or the estate. Therefore, an heir’s interest an estate’s property is represented by the personal representative. The failure to include an heir as a party to the partition action did not construe extrinsic fraud or mistake. 

The appellant also argued that Jaa had failed to represent his interests in the partition action. To this the Court notes that the appellant was served with notice of the July 2013 trial and had by that time expressed concerns about Jaa’s representation of the Young Estate’s interests in his motion to set aside the prior interlocutory judgment. Accordingly, the Court states that the appellant could have sought in the probate proceedings an order directing Jaa to act in a certain way or remove her altogether as personal representative of the Young Estate. (Prob. Code, §§ 9500, 8502.) Therefore, the appellant was not fraudulently prevented from participating fully in the partition proceeding.

The next thing that the appellant contended was that the attorney representing the Young Estate at the beginning of the litigation conducted themselves improperly and that led to extrinsic fraud. However, the only record citation that the appellant used to support this did not establish any fraudulent conduct on the part of the attorney, so the Court quickly dismissed that argument.

Another argument the appellant made to support his extrinsic fraud claim was the fact that the respondent’s counsel called the appellant a “squatter” at the interlocutory judgment trial. In response to this the Court of Appeal noted that the characterization of “squatter” took place solely in connection to the discussion with the trial court about which department of the superior court the disputes should be brought into. Further, the Court noted that it did not appear that the trial court accepted this representation, or that it had any material impact on the interlocutory judgment order. 

The appellant also made the argument that the interlocutory judgment was void. To support this, he argued that the judgment improperly awarded an interest in the property to the respondent personally. The Court clarified however that the judgment found the plaintiff as the owner of an undivided one-half interest in the property, and the respondent was the plaintiff only in her capacity as administrator of the estate. Hence, the judgment did not award any interest personally. 

Lastly, the appellant targeted the portion of the interlocutory judgment that granted the partition referee authority to take all the steps necessary, including the initiation of litigation, to remove certain individuals from the property. The appellant contended that because he was not party to the litigation the trial court could not litigate his property rights in his absence or authorize the partition referee to remove him from the property. The Court explains that the order did not authorize the referee to remove the appellant but rather authorized him to make the necessary steps to do so. Further, the trial court’s order was appropriate because a partition referee authorized to sell property may perform any acts necessary to exercise that authority under CCP §§ 873.010, 873.060. 

The appellant made a number of other arguments but because he cited no authority to prove these arguments, the court refused to consider them. Consequently, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment and the respondent was able to recover her costs on appeal. 

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help 

A court’s determination of ownership interests in a property depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Factors such as agreements and who pays for certain expenses for the property can ultimately affect the outcome of a partition case. If you are considering partition as an option, or find yourself defending one, then you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.   

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