Santa Maria Partition Lawyers

Santa Maria (Spanish for "St. Mary") is a city in the Central Coast of California in northern Santa Barbara County. The city is notable for its wine industry and Santa Maria-style barbecue. It is approximately 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Santa Barbara and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Its population was 109,707 at the 2020 census, making it the most populous city in the county and the Santa Maria-Santa Barbara Metro Area. According to Redfin, In June 2023, Santa Maria home prices were up 12.8% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $615K. On average, homes in Santa Maria sell after 17 days on the market compared to 14 days last year. There were 45 homes sold in June this year, down from 61 last year. As a town with great historical roots, residents of Mountain View often own property with others due to inheritance, which can lead to disputes between co-owners. There are at least four types of situations where a Santa Maria Partition Attorney may be helpful:

  • Investor-Developer co-ownership of property; 
  • Ex Romantic Partner co-ownership of property; 
  • Shared Family co-ownership of property; and
  • Parent-Child co-ownership of property;
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 Santa Maria 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 Santa Maria Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

Generally, anyone considering filing a lawsuit should consider all of their alternatives, including an informal resolution of the problem. This can take the form of a discussion with the other owner or owners about agreeing to sell the property, negotiating with the co-owner to create a formula to divide the proceeds from the sale, or retaining a lawyer to engage in a mediation with the other owners.

Throughout the partition process, and even on the day of trial, any of the owners can make an agreement about the sale of the property. This can happen through a phone call, through negotiations between the parties' lawyers, or through a mediation session with a retired judge or trained mediator. There are many benefits from a mediation session, including confidentiality provisions contained in the law in Evidence Code sections 1115 through 1129.

Specifically, Evidence Code section 1119, subdivision (a), provides "no evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation or a mediation consultation is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled in any arbitration, administrative adjudication, civil action, or other noncriminal proceeding in which, pursuant to law, testimony can be compelled to be given." A knowledgeable Santa Maria 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 Santa Maria Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Hill v. Galuppo (2005)

When a trial court orders an interlocutory judgment on the rights and interests of the respective parties, such a judgment is appealable. (CCP § 904.1(a)(9)). The following paragraphs discuss how the Court of Appeal determines whether a trial court’s order for a partition in kind was appealable when the appeal was filed 5 years later in Hill v. Galuppo (2005) 2005 WL 1972411.

In Hill, John A. Galuppo established a family trust that jointly acquired a parcel of real property with James J. Hill and Geri T. Hill (the Hills). Geri Hill (who was Galuppo’s sister) was appointed as the trustee of the trust. Pursuant to an oral agreement, the Trust paid $250,000 in cash for its interest and the Hills gave the seller a $285,000 note for their interest, secured by a deed of trust on the entire property, including the Trust’s interest.

Both the Hills and Galuppo built houses on the property and agreed that the Hills could finance construction of their house with a loan secured by the entire property, including the Trust’s interest. Galuppo agreed to this so that James Hill could avoid the penalties from premature withdrawal of funds from his retirement account. In addition, the financing was in consideration of Geri Hill, an architect, providing design and construction supervision services to Galuppo’s house. As trustee, Geri Hill signed construction loan documents on behalf of the Trust, including a guaranty of the loan by the trust, and paid the cost of constructing the Galuppo house by drawing funds Galuppo deposited into the Trust bank account.

When the construction loan matured in 1996 or 1997, the Hills attempted to replace the loan with long-term financing, and asked Galuppo to permit encumbrance of the Trust’s interest in the property as security for the long-term financing. Galuppo said no and the construction loan went into default. At the same time, Galuppo removed Geri Hill as the trustee and appointed himself instead.

In 1998, the Hills filed a complaint for partition of the property and named both the Trust and Galuppo as defendants. Their complaint recited the oral agreement regarding the acquisition of the property and construction of the houses. The Hills also alleged there was a breach of an agreement that the Hills could encumber the Trust’s interest in the property to secure their long-term financing.

Galuppo and the Trust cross-complained alleging breach of trust, constructive fraud, and fraud. The cross-complaint alleged that the Hills acted without the consent of Galuppo or the Trust when they acquired and built a house on the property at no out-of-pocket cost except loan carrying costs. It also alleged that the parties’ original agreement required the Hills to pay their $285,000 share of the purchase price in cash, not through a note to the seller, and to secure a construction loan only on their (the Hills) interest in the property.

A trial court ordered an interlocutory judgment of real property and other orders on March 16, 1999. The trial court refused to impose a constructive trust on the Hills’ interest and determined that the Hills and the Trust each owned an undivided one-half interest in the property. As such, the court ordered a partition by division of the property and rejected the Hills’ breach of contract claim regarding encumbrance of the Trust’s interest to secure long-term financing.

The trial court then appointed Douglas Barth as referee to divide the property. After the court approved Barth’s preliminary analysis, Barth submitted a subdivision application to the county, prepared a parcel map, and supervised the improvements necessary to equitably divide the property and obtain county approval. Upon completion, Barth submitted a final report for confirmation by the court.

In February 2004, the court conducted a trial to confirm Barth’s report and resolve the monetary damage causes of action in Galuppo’s cross-complaint. The trial court issued a “Ruling After Court Trial” on October 10, 2004, stating that it would confirm partition pursuant to the referee’s parcel map, enter judgment in favor of the Hills on the money damage claim, and determine that the Trust owed the Hills $3,573 in owelty. Owelty is compensation by one party to the other to correct the remaining inequality when a partition cannot create precisely equal shares. (CCP § 873.250.) Galuppo filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied.

The trial court issued a statement of intended decision in November 2004 and entered judgment confirming the partition on November 29, 2004. The judgment provided how each parcel was to be assigned, that Galuppo pay the Hills $3,573 in owelty, and ruled in favor of the Hills on the causes of action in the cross-complaint. Galuppo appealed.

Galuppo first attempted to appeal the 1999 judgment. The Court of Appeal for the Second District however, said it could not consider the matters in the 1999 judgment because the Trust and Galuppo did not file an appeal until 2004. Galuppo attempted to argue that the 1999 judgment could be deferred until the entry of the of the judgement in 2004 because a subdivision of the property could have been rejected by the county. To this, the Court of Appeal says that although the judgement was characterized as “interlocutory” it adjudicated issues that were considered appealable at the time.

Then Galuppo attempted to appeal the 2004 judgment that conveyed the parcels “pursuant to the stipulation of the parties in open court” claiming that no stipulations were ever made. The Court of Appeal disagreed. At the beginning of trial in February 2004, the Hills stated that the parties had agreed to the proposed division partition line and counsel for Galuppo, and the Trust agreed with that statement.

The Hills also sough sanctions claiming that the appeal was frivolous, but because the Hills did not raise the appealability issue and instead focused on Galuppo’s language, the court denied the sanctions. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment.

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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