San Joaquin County Partition Lawyers

California’s San Joaquin County is located in the Central Valley, just east of the San Francisco Bay, and its County seat is in Stockton, which has a high population density. It is separated from the Bay by the Diablo Range. San Joaquin County is home to several large agricultural companies such as Archer Daniels Midland, Blue Shield of California, Dart Container, Holz Rubber, Kubota Tractors, Lodi Iron Works, Miller Packing Company, Pacific Coast Producers, Tiger Lines, Valley Industries, and Woodbridge-Robert Mondavi. As a historical county in California, property owners often find themselves in co-ownership disputes. Often, San Joaquin 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 occurs when there are two or more title holders to a piece of property, and these title holders are unable to reach an agreement on splitting the subject property. Typically, a litigant brings a partition action to have the court force the sale of or split the subject property. Therefore, when a piece of personal property is concurrently owned by several people, one of the owners may bring a partition action to have the court divide the subject property. In the past, California courts have partitioned not only real estate but also, shares of stock, cash, and businesses.

Generally, an action for partition can be brought forth by a co-owner of real property and a co-owner of personal property. Notably, a court can partition not only real property or real estate but also personal property of any kind. (CCP § 872.230(a).) The best San Joaquin County 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 San Joaquin County Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Your 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 San Joaquin County Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What are claims for “contribution”?

Before the sales proceeds are distributed among the parties, a court-ordered accounting will determine the charges and credits upon each co-owner’s interest. These credits are taken out of the net proceeds before the balance is divided equally. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 539 (“Nelson”).) 

“When a cotenant makes advances from his own pocket to preserve the common estate, his investment in the property increases by the entire amount advanced. Upon sale of the estate, he is entitled to his reimbursement before the balance is equally divided.” (Nelson, 230 Cal.App.2d, at p. 541, citing William v. Koyer (1914) 168 Cal.369.)

As such, a party to a partition action must produce and gather their evidence and make sure that it is presented to the court so they can receive full credit for the value that they have added to the property. While a party may have a right to these credits under the law, ultimately, they will not be counted unless they can be presented in the proper form. An experienced San Joaquin County Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Vaughan v. Heer

After a court has ordered a partition by sale of real property, what can happen when one party seeks to circumvent a court’s order by conspiring and encumbering the property with a sham deed of trust? Is a court’s order to partition property appealable? What procedures and laws do courts apply in administering and partitioning an estate? The following paragraphs discuss how such actions and different procedures can affect the outcome of a partition case in Vaughan v. Heer (2019) 2019 WL 494020.

In Vaughan, Gitta Vaughan, as trustee of the Christian Engel 2004 Revocable Trust (“Trust”) brought a partition action against Randhir Heer to sell adjacent parcels of property (“Property”). Prior to bringing this suit, Christian Engel named Vaughan as trustee of the Trust, which had five beneficiaries, including Vaughan. When Christian passed, the trust owned an undivided 50% interest in the property, and Christian’s ex-wife, Dominique Engel, owned the other undivided 50% interest in the property. As trustee of the trust, Vaugh petitioned for Instructions to Determine Title and Require Partition and Transfer of Real Property, naming Dominique and the remaining beneficiaries as respondents. The beneficiaries consented to listing the property for sale. After the probate court determined that the Trust and Dominique each owned an undivided 50% interest in the property, a partition by sale was ordered and Vaughn was authorized to negotiate, lower the listing price, and enter into a purchase and sale agreement of the property upon court approval.

Ten days after the probate court’s order, Dominique gifted her interest to Heer, who encumbered the property with a deed of trust, claiming that the property was collateral for a $3,000,000 promissory note from, which was his fictitious business name, which also had the same business address as Dominique. Vaughn then filed a petition to cancel Heer’s sham deed of trust and bind him to the probate court’s prior order to partition the property by sale. The probate court found that Heer’s deed of trust was a sham and that he conspired with Heer to avoid the court’s order. As such, the deed of trust was cancelled. After a few negotiations with potential buyers, Vaughn found a buyer and filed a motion to approve the sale. The probate court granted the motion and ordered the partition to proceed. Heer then appealed.

During the appeal, Vaughan argued that the appeal must be dismissed because the probate court’s order granting her motion to approve the sale and for instructions to escrow was not appealable. The California Third District Court of Appeal disagreed, citing that appeals may be taken “from an interlocutory judgment in an action for partition determining the rights and interests of the respective parties and directing partition be made.” (CCP § 904.1(a)(9).) The court will make an interlocutory judgment determining each party’s interest in the property if the court finds that the party is entitled to partition and order the partition of the property. The Court of Appeal found that the probate court’s order constituted an interlocutory judgment within the meaning of California Civil Code of Procedure section 904.1(a)(9), and thus, appealable.

Heer argued that the probate court abused its discretion when it denied his alleged overbid offer and failed to follow the procedures for the sale of property in accordance with California Probate Code section 10311. In response, Vaughan argued that § 10311 only applies to the administration of a decedent’s estate. Here, the Court of Appeal held that Vaugh’s petition to partition the property was made under §§ 17200, 17200.1, and 850, all of which apply to trust property. Thus, because Vaughan brought the action for trust property, § 10311 did not apply. Because § 10311 did not apply to this proceeding, Vaughn argued that Heer’s appeal was frivolous.

However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and noted that “an almost identical provision for written overbids exists in the statutes governing partition actions in circumstances such as these.” For example, Code of Civil Procedure section 873.740 provides that when “responsible bidder makes a written increased offer that exceeds the sale price by at least 10 percent on the first ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and 5 percent on the amount in excess thereof, the court in its discretion may do either of the following: (1) vacate the sale and direct that a new sale be made. (2) vacate the sale, accept the increased offer, and confirm the sale to the offerer.”

As such, the Court of Appeal proceeded to consider whether the probate court abused its discretion when it approved the sale to another buyer over Heer’s objections. Under the abuse of discretion standard, a trial court’s application of law to facts is reversible only if it is arbitrary and capricious. (Cummings v. Dessel (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 589, 597.)

Because Code of Civil Procedure section 873.740 requires a written offer to purchase property when the offer exceeds the current offer by a specified amount, there must be a written offer. Here, the Court of Appeal found that no written offer existed in the record on appeal. Thus, the partition statute was not met.

Further, because Heer chose not to bring in a court reporter during the hearing, the Court of Appeal held that the judgment of order of a lower court is entitled to a presumption in favor of its correctness on appeal. (In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1130, 1133.) When an appeal is based upon a clerk’s transcript, “the presumption has special significance” as with the present case. (Ehrler v. Ehrler (1981) 126 Cal.App.3d 147, 154.) As such, the Court of Appeal held that it must “conclusively presume evidence was presented that is sufficient to support the court’s finding.” (Id.) The Court of Appeal found that the face of the record showed that Heer did not make a written overbid offer as required by the relevant partition statute. Instead, he only orally objected. Thus, the Court of Appeal failed to find that his oral objection constituted a proper overbid.

Additionally, the Court of Appeal held that Heer was not a “responsible” bidder within the meaning of the statute, because “a bidder is responsible if it can perform the contract as promised.” (Valley Crest Landscape, Inc.v. City Council (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1432, 1438.) Here, Heer was not considered a “responsible” bidder as he chose to encumber the property with a sham deed of trust and conspire with Dominque to evade the probate court’s order directing the partition of the property by sale. For these reasons, the Court of Appeal affirmed the probate court’s judgment.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

When partitioning property, various factors such as what statutes a party brings suit under and actions that a party takes, can affect the outcome of a partition case. If you are considering partition as an option, you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

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