Tustin Partition Lawyers

In 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano became the first permanent European settlement in Alta California, New Spain. In 1801, the Spanish Empire granted 62,500 acres to Jose Antonio Yorba, which later included the City of Tustin. As of the 2020 census, its population was 80,276. Tustin is known for its historic landmark called “Red Hill.” According to Redfin, in March 2024, the median sales price was $970,000 and homes stay on the market for 21 days. Tustin residents who own real estate may face disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Tustin Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories: 

  • Family-owned real estate where only one party wants to sell; 
  • Former romantic partners who jointly own real estate where only one party wants to sell; 
  • Jointly owned real estate where only one party wants to sell;  
  • Partnership real estate where only one party wants to sell;  
What is a Partition Action?

A partition lawsuit requires real estate to be sold regardless of the requests of the other title owners. The purpose of a partition action is to permanently end all disputes and remove all obstacles to the free enjoyment of land by one person. (McGillivray v. Evans (1864) 27 Cal.92.) These types of actions can be brought for all types of real estate from houses to farms to office buildings to apartment buildings. Similarly, partition actions are available all types of ownership situations from joint tenants to tenants-in-common to partnership property to property jointly owned by former spouses.

Historically, the term "partition" comes from the basic word to break into "parts" as in physically dividing real estate in half. For example, if two siblings inherited ten acres of farmland, the property could historically be divided into five acres a piece for each of them. As most people now live in single-family homes, which cannot simply be "split in half," courts will instead order that the property be sold and the proceeds, or equity, be "split in half." The best Tustin 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 Tustin Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

A partition action can always be resolved informally at any time prior to the first day of trial, or entry of judgment. 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 Tustin 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 Tustin Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Ramy & Associates, LLC v. Snyder (2023)

The success of a party in a partition lawsuit may hinge on a variety of elements, including the party’s ability to compellingly present their case. Particularly, in scenarios where ownership shares in properties frequently changed hands, it is crucial to record each party's financial interests and obligations and be prepared to effectively demonstrate this information to the court when necessary. The following paragraphs discuss how these matters affected the partition of property and disbursement of funds in Ramy & Associates, LLC v. Snyder (2023) 2023 WL 5965069.

In Ramy, Ramy and Associates brought suit against Darryl Snyder and other parties involved in the ownership and management of the Property. Edward Caraccia Sr. (father) and Lillie Fay Caraccia (mother) originally acquired the Property, a car dealership. Ramy and Associates had leased the Property for decades. Following Lillie Fay's death in 2002, the estate divided the Property equally between the father and mother trusts. Both trusts had the father as the trustee.

In 2009, Denise Economou and Edward V. Caraccia II (Eddie), the children and joint beneficiaries of mother trust, sued their father, alleging mismanagement of the trusts. Following this, father resigned as a trustee of both trusts and appointed Darryl Snyder as trustee of father trust and Denise and Eddie became joint successor trustees of mother trust. As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, Snyder transferred 25% interest in the Property from father trust to mother trust, altering the ownership shares to 25% by the father trust and 75% by the mother trust.

In 2009, the father trust initiated an unlawful detainer action against Mr. Ramy, resulting in a court judgment for past-due rent of $205,757 in favor of the father trust. In 2011, Ramy filed a lawsuit against the father trust, alleging overpayment of rent (recission and unjust enrichment claims). A year later, Snyder, on behalf of father trust, filed an action seeking removal of Eddie and Denise as trustees of mother trust and requesting an accounting and appointment of successor trustees. In 2012, Edward Caraccia St. married Patricia Caraccia and made her the sole beneficiary of the father trust. Following the third lawsuit, father trust executed a $100,000 promissory note in favor of Ramy secured by a deed of trust in the Property in settlement of Ramy’s suit against father trust.

In 2013, Edward Caraccia passed away. During the legal settlements for Lawsuit No. 4, in father trust’s suit against Denise and Eddie, Eddie, Denise, Snyder and Patricia agreed to sell the Property. Upon sale, mother trust would reimburse father trust $36,501.57 in unpaid rent, mother trust would pay 50% up to the sum of $50,000 of the amount owed due to Lawsuit No. 3. The mother trust refused to sell the property.

In 2014, as the litigation was pending, mother trust sold 37.5% of its share in the Property to Ramy, distributed the proceeds to Denise and retained the remaining 37% interest. Through this transaction, Eddie became the sole trustee and beneficiary of mother trust. In 2018, Parties stipulated to the appointment of a referee to sell the property and agreed that the court would decide all remaining issues post-sale.

In 2018, father trust sold its 25% interest in the Property to Ramy, increasing Ramy's ownership to 62.5%, with the mother trust retaining 37.5%.

As part of the sale, father trust agreed to deduct $50,000 from the Ramy’s sale proceeds to repay its half of the principal owed under the earlier promissory note. The court entered an order confirming the sale. The referee’s cost and fees were to be split evenly by both parties, later amended it to be borne 75% by Plaintiff (Ramy, Eddie and mother trust) and 25% by Defendant (Snyder and Father trust) with the referee to calculate the precise amount due. The court also found that Eddie (Mother trust) owed Ramy half of the amount due on the promissory note plus interest on it. Ramy appealed contending that it is the father trust and not the mother trust that owed it the amount on the promissory note plus interest due and that the trial court incorrectly allocated the referee fees. Through appeal, Ramy sought $96,404.68 from the father trust.

The California Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision finding that Ramy had forfeited its claims due to lack of sufficient legal analysis and citation to authority to support its arguments. The court proceeded to mention that the assumption is that a lower court's decision or order is accurate. Additionally, it noted that the record's gaps are filled with assumptions and presumptions in its favor, and it is the responsibility of the challenging party to conclusively demonstrate any errors. This practice, the court remarked, is also a fundamental part of the constitutional concept of reversible error regarding appellate practice. (Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564.) It is the appellant's “responsibility ... to support claims of error with meaningful argument and citation to authority.” (Allen v. City of Sacramento (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 41, 52; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(B).)

The court went on to say that the court’s role is to evaluate “legal argument with citation of authorities on the points made.” (People v. Stanley (1995) 10 Cal.4th 764, 793.). Ramy cited one statue and one appellate opinion in its opening brief and did not discuss or cite to authority that discusses any of the topics such as contract interpretation, property law, trusts, civil procedure, and the impact of prior judgments.

The appellate court noted that Ramy failed to provide sufficient legal argument or a record that could support claims of error. The burden of proof on appeal, as well as providing a comprehensive record to evaluate issues raised, lies with the appellant, which Ramy did not fulfill. The court also noted that the record from the trial court did not contain adequate information to decide on matters such as misallocation of the referee fees between the parties. Thus, it could not discern how the order for the allocation of referee fees came to be modified from 50/50 to 75/25 or why. Furthermore, the court went on to say that it does not know if Ramy objected to this modification as the court only knows that the proposed order was filed and changed without knowing the reason for it. This, the court further ruled, was insufficient to establish reversible order. (Pringle v. La Chapelle (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 1000, 1003 [“Without the proper record, we cannot evaluate issues requiring a factual analysis.”].) Hence, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s 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 case. Factors such as the ability to present relevant legal arguments supported by sufficient legal analysis and citation to authority can ultimately affect the outcome of the 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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