Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

How do you sell a property that is jointly owned by four siblings but only three are willing to sell, and none have the ability to buy the others out.

This property is an inheritance and has passed through probate. One of the orders of court was that the executor fees be paid which to date they have not, and these are owed to one of the three siblings willing to sell the property.

Asked on 6/10/13, 9:29 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

William Christian Rodi Pollock

Generally speaking, any co owner will have the right to force a sale. To be able to convey title, however, you either reach agreement between the parties or one of the co owners will need to file a partition action. A partition action a law suit to have the judge require the sale. Such an action is expensive and time consuming, and obviously reduces the amount everyone receives from the property. Obviously the best bet is to have all co owners agree to proceed so that you can avoid the legal action. This gratuitous response does not create an attorney client relationship. The advice provided herein is generic, may not apply to your circumstances and is not to be relied upon in your actions. An attorney client relationship is created only upon execution of an engagement letter hiring me or my firm.

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Answered on 6/10/13, 10:26 am

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

A lawsuit for "partition" can be filed by any co-owner, and about the only defense to a partition suit is that the owners have previously waived their right to partition, which is unlikely here. Also, although partition suits can be somewhat costly if pursued from filing through final judgment, more often than not, the mere filing of the suit causes the reluctant co-owner(s) to see the handwriting on the wall and agree to an out-of-court settlement. Such a settlement may be an agreement to put the property on the market, for one or another of the co-owners to buy out the other(s), or to turn over some portion of the dispute to private, out-of-court arbitration.

Partition got its name because in the early days, the court would order the property subdivided between the co-owners (i.e., partitioned). Each would end up as the sole owner of a portion of, for example, dad's farm after his death. In more modern times, we have laws against random subdivision, and it's hard to impossible to divide urban lots with one house, so nowadays 99% of partitioning is done by the court ordering the property to be sold and the net proceeds divided among the former co-owners.

In cases that go all the way through the process in court, the judge will take evidence on any adjustments to the ownership percentages that need to be made, in fairness, when one party has paid more than his share of the purchase price, property taxes, insurance, and other necessary costs, and will also make an adjustment for excess rents anyone has received. Also, before the former owners get any of the sale proceeds, all the costs of sale such as broker commissions are paid, then any liens such as deeds of trust and property taxes. This would no doubt include the executor fees in your situation.

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Answered on 6/10/13, 11:00 am
John Laurie Gertz and Laurie

You should be able to force a sale.You need to take all the paperwork to a a real estate attorney in your area. The may also need to know a little probate law. The local bar association should be able to give you a referral.

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Answered on 6/10/13, 4:47 pm

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