Santa Clara Partition Lawyers

Situated at the center of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara is home to the headquarters of giant corporations like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia. It is also home to the oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, and Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers football team. Santa Clara has many entertainment sources, including Paramount Great Adventure, Triton Museum of Art, the Intel Museum, the Santa Clara Convention Center, the de Saisset Museum, and the world champion Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps. California’s Great America is also located within the city. The Spanish founded the city in 1777 with the establishment of Mission Santa Clara de Asis, dedicated to Saint Clare, for whom the town is named. The city, however, was not incorporated until 1852, two years after California gained statehood. Santa Clara Partition Lawyers often find that joint ownership problems fall into four categories:

  • Investor-Investor shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Parent-Child tenants in common in real estate;
  • Brother-Sister 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 Santa Clara Partition Lawyers 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 Santa Clara Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

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 Santa Clara Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

A partition action can always be resolved informally at any time prior to the first day of trial. In fact, in numerous instances, just filing the partition itself leads the other party to seek a resolution between them. We always encourage the parties to talk throughout every phase of the process, as that can lead to the best outcomes for everyone.

From our perspective, every piece of litigation is just part of a larger “negotiation.” In any negotiation, the party who has the best leverage is usually able to achieve a more favorable outcome. The lawsuit provides the client with more leverage because they have more options available to them than without the prospect of a resolution from a judge. As such, all that a lawsuit does is provide one party with more leverage in the negotiation about how to resolve the dispute. For this reason, the best way to informally resolve a dispute is to combine discussions with active litigation, so that the matter can be quickly resolved without unnecessary expense. Throughout the process, our attorneys are in touch with our clients about their options and the prospects for informal resolution through mediation or negotiation. A knowledgeable Santa Clara Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

A Partition Case Study: Price v. Lo Duca

Time is an important aspect of any legal case. Most legal complaints have something called a “statute of limitations,” which limits how long ago the event can take place before someone can bring a lawsuit forward. Partitions are somewhat unique in that there is no statute of limitations so cotenants-in-common can always bring forth a partition lawsuit.

What is important about this aspect of partitions law though, is that the parties must be cotenants-in-common. Oftentimes, this is not an issue as the parties will be living on the property together or business partners. This can get tricky however, when the parties have a messy history that makes their relationship unclear.

Price v. Lo Duca (2002) Cap.App.Unpub. WL 499447, is an example of when parties have a complicated business relationship that created legal issues. Sometimes, it can be really unclear if a business relationship even exists at certain points. It is important for parties to understand the legal implications of the existence or nonexistence of a business relationship at certain stages of a lawsuit.

The property at issue in Price was a parcel for the purpose of setting up dog show kennels and raising the dogs. (Id., at 1.) The Lasters, the Prices, and Janet Lo Duca, who was the daughter of the Lasters, all worked together to acquire the property, and although there was an understanding that the land would be split there was no written contract between them. (Id., at 2.)

There were many issues preventing the parties’ proposed land split, including cost of road improvements which Mr. Laster eventually refused to continue paying for. (Id., at 3.) In 19080, the land split plan was abandoned, but the parties agreed to continue holding their ownership shares of the property. (Id.)

After the attempted subdivision fell through, the Prices moved away from the area, but Mrs. Price still regularly spoke to Lo Duca about the property’s status. (Id.) Later, Mr. Laster died without a will, and his interest share in the property passed on to his wife. (Id.) At that time, Mrs. Price visited Lo Duca and asked for something in writing confirming the Prices’ one-fourth property interest. (Id.) Mrs. Price testified that Lo Duca told her Mr. Laster stated in his will that the Prices owned a one-fourth interest in the property, but Lo Duca denied this and pointed out that Mr. Laster had no will. (Id.)

Then, Mrs. Laster was in poor health and her son-in-law, who was Lo Duca’s husband, prepared a grant deed which would give Mrs. Laster’s one-fourth property interest to Lo Duca. (Id.) Though Mrs. Laster signed this grant deed on March 23, 1991, Lo Duca did not record it at the time. (Id.) On August 5, 1996, Lo Duca recorded Mrs. Laster’s deed, and Mrs. Laster died one month later. (Id.) Lo Duca never told the Prices about the grant deed or Mrs. Laster’s death. (Id.) In 1997, the Prices wanted to move their money out of the property. (Id.) Their daughter-in-law, Lori Price, contacted Lo Duca several times. (Id.) According to her, Lo Duca told her that the Prices could have their portion if they worked for the subdivision of the property. (Id.) Lori Price told Lo Duca that the property could not be divided and wanted either to sell the property or for Lo Duca to buy the Prices out. (Id.)

Lori Price said that Lo Duca offered to give the Prices what they originally paid for the property. (Id.) Lo Duca denied telling Lori Price that she would pay the Prices. (Id.) At this time, Lori Price also gained a copy of Mrs. Laster’s signed 1991 grant deed and discovered that Mr. Laster had no will. (Id.)

In May 1998, the Prices sued Lo Duca for partition. (Id., at 4.) The trial court first found that the Lasters, the Prices, and Lo Duca had entered into an oral agreement to buy and split the property, but that the parties needed to provide more evidence on the issue of whether the property could be physically partitioned or if it had to be sold. (Id.)

After further expert testimony was presented, the trial court found that the Prices held a 25 percent interest, and that Lo Duca held a 75 percent interest in the property. (Id., at 5.) The trial court also concluded that the property could not be physically divided and ordered partition by sale. (Id.) Lo Duca appealed the trial court’s order, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id., at 1.)

Price is a cautionary tale on understanding the timing of business partnerships. Many business partnerships can get messy, but it is vital to keep a consistent timeline of important events in the partnership. Whether a partnership ends or continues is one important matter to understand, because the legal definition of a partnership ending can be a bit different from a common understanding.

Lo Duca argued that since the partnership ended, this was an action for accounting, not partition, which would be subject to a four-year catchall statute of limitations. (Id., at 6.) Lo Duca contended that the clock for the statute of limitations started in 1980 after the failure to subdivide the property, or on Mr. Laster’s death in 1982, either of which would bar the Prices’ complaint. (Id.)

The Prices argued that there is no statute of limitations on partition actions. (Id.) The Prices also argued that, if this were an accounting action, the clock on the four-year statute of limitations started when Lo Duca recorded Mrs. Laster’s grant deed in 1996, so their complaint would not be barred. (Id.)

The court identified the main issue was whether or not the Prices lost their interest in the partnership, because if they did then they would no longer be co-owners of the property and so could not bring the lawsuit. (Id., at 7.) Lo Duca argued that the partnership dissolved in 1980 when the parties decided to abandon subdividing the property, while the Prices claimed that the partnership remained intact for holding the property as an investment. (Id.) Though the facts were disputed, the trial court found substantial evidence in favor of the Prices. (Id.)

For Mr. Laster’s death in 1982, the Court of Appeal held that his death dissolved the partnership. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that this would start the clock on the statute of limitations. (Id.) But if there was an agreement among the parties to continue the partnership after Mr. Laster’s death, then the Prices would retain their ownership interest and be entitled to partition. (Id.)

The trial court previously issued three tentative decisions, and stated in their third tentative decision that the action was not barred by the statute of limitations. (Id., at 10.) Back then, Lo Duca indicated that the third tentative decision was acceptable. (Id.)

Additionally, there was much evidence to hold that the partnership agreement continued after Mr. Laster’s death. (Id.) Mrs. Price visited Lo Duca after Mr. Laster died and asked about the Prices’ interest and Mrs. Price called Lo Duca routinely asking about the property’s status. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held that the partnership continued after Mr. Laster’s death, which meant the Prices still had ownership interest in the property and were not barred by the statute of limitations to bring a partition lawsuit. (Id., at 12.)

Price is instructive in understanding how business relationships can affect partitions lawsuits. One may not imagine that the two are closely related, but the absence of that relationship could even prevent one from bringing a lawsuit in the first place. Price also illustrates just how important it is to keep a timeline of events and understand how certain events affect the party’s legal case. An event that may not seem relevant may actually have strong legal significance.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Price, partition law is full of intricacies that can catch an unwary party off guard. Courts may take into consideration certain aspects of the parties that most people normally wouldn’t regard while planning for a partition, such as their relationships with each other. It is important for parties to understand how events leading up to the lawsuit can affect their legal 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.

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