What happens when property ownership is disputed? For example, if a set of parents with three children own nine properties of varying values in different cities and then they pass away without a will or trust, how will the properties be allocated to their three children?
Of course, if all the children simply agreed on what to do with the properties there would be no issue. However, when dealing with multiple family members and large sums of money a quick and easy agreement is a rare occurrence. Therefore, knowing that an agreement is unlikely, what can be done?
A family member can go to court and try to force the sale of the properties by engaging in a forced sale known as a partition sale. (Cal. Civ. Procedure § 872.820.) However, agreeing on how much to sell the properties for, when to sell the properties, and who should sell the properties are issues ripe for disagreement. Therefore, courts strongly disfavor forced property sales. (Williams v. Wells Fargo Bank (1943) 56 Cal. App. 2d 645, 647.) As a result, courts prefer properties to be partitioned in kind. (Richmond v. Dofflemyer (1980) 105 Cal. App. 3d 745,757.) Partition in kind means the property is not sold, but ownership is distributed between the parties. However, who determines how the ownership should be distributed?
A person that can determine ownership is a Partition Referee, which can be appointed by a court pursuant to Cal. Civ. Procedure § 873.810. A partition action is a suit in equity. (Richmond v. Dofflemeyer (1980) 105 Cal. App. 3d 745, 766.) This means that the Partition Referee can take broad steps to ensure that property is equally distributed and fairness is achieved between the parties, which the court can then approve and ongoing conflicts between the parties can be avoided.
Bay Area Receivership Group has served as a Partition Referee in numerous cases throughout California and is one of the many ways BARG brings solutions to complex problems.