Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act – California – The Ultimate Guide

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What is the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in California?

The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California is the new law from the California legislature that makes it easier to solve co-ownership disputes between heirs and others owning family property. The law was created to address perceived abuse in California partition actions leading to a loss of equity in inherited property, especially among lower income parties. The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California allows for added opportunities for non-partitioning parties to buy out partitioning parties’ interest in the inherited property. The act thereby allows non-partitioning co-owners of heirs property, defined below, to retain their share of an inherited property by ensuring that they have the necessary due process to prevent the forced sale of the property.

The bottom line is that co-owners of inherited property have a much easier way to buy out their co-owners, usually their siblings. Conversely, siblings who inherit property that is resided in by one of their siblings now have a nicer way to ask that their siblings buy them out or move on so that everyone can obtain their equity. The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California accomplishes these goals by forcing a partition by appraisal where it would otherwise not be allowed.

When Did the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California Go into Effect?

Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) went into effect on January 1, 2022. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 633 on July 2021, which added the UPHPA to the California Partition Statutes in the California Code of Civil Procedure. California now joins many other states that have already adopted the UPHPA, including New York, Texas, Illinois, and 13 others. The act governs partition actions filed on or after January 1, 2022 involving heirs property as defined under California Code of Civil Procedure 874.313.

What is the Purpose of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California?

The UPHPA “preserves the right of a co-tenant to sell his or her interest in inherited real estate, while ensuring that the other co-tenants will have the necessary due process to prevent a forced sale: notice, appraisal, and right of first refusal.” [1]Nat’l Conf. of Comm’rs on Uniform State Laws, The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act – A Summary, 2010. The act aims to prevent dispossession of inherited property by way of a forced sale. For many, inherited property is their most valuable asset. Being forced to sell this asset can potentially negatively impact those who have inherited the property.

California Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
California Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act allows for the preservation of generational wealth and familial relationships

For example, perhaps one co-owner has sold their interest to a real estate investor. As a co-owner, the investor can now force the sale of the property below fair market value, just to buy it back in full. The non-partitioning co-owners are now left without their inherited property and with little cash to show for its sale, while the real estate investor walks away with the heirs property.

According to the author of the Act, this issue is unfortunately common in lower to middle class individuals, especially rural African-American families, who die intestate or who do not have the resources to create sophisticated wills or estate plans. State intestacy laws and less sophisticated estate planning documents will name heirs as tenants in common. Any tenant in common who has no need or desire to maintain ownership in the property may file for a partition action. However, under the UPHPA in California, co-owners who wish to retain their ownership in the inherited property have more opportunity to do so, thus preserving generational property wealth that may be otherwise lost in a partition by sale.

What are the Requirements for the UPHPA in California?

In addition to the requirement under California law that the partition action must have been filed on or after January 1, 2022, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California only applies to: 1) heirs property 2) in which there is no written agreement governing partition among the owners. If these conditions are met, the UPHPA will afford protections for non-partitioning co-owners of heirs property.[2]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.313

What is Heirs Property under California Law?

Contrary to what some people may believe, the definition of “heirs property” under the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California applies to more than just property that is inherited after death by “heirs” as that term is commonly understood. Rather, “heirs property” is defined in Code of Civil Procedure Section 874.312(e) as follows:

“Heirs property” means real property held in tenancy in common which satisfies all of the following requirements as of the filing of a partition action:

(1) There is no agreement in a record binding all the cotenants which governs the partition of the property.

(2) One or more of the cotenants acquired title from a relative, whether living or deceased.

(3) Any of the following applies:

(A) Twenty percent or more of the interests are held by cotenants who are relatives.

(B) Twenty percent or more of the interests are held by an individual who acquired title from a relative, whether living or deceased.

(C) Twenty percent or more of the cotenants are relatives.

This requirement that one or more of the co-owners acquired title from a “relative” includes relatives that are “living,” meaning the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California even applies if you purchase a property from your living parent, cousin, or otherwise. In other words, the “heirs” portion of the act is a misnomer as the act really applies to any property acquired from a relative. The only exception would be if those who meet this qualification are less than 20 percent of the ownership. Accordingly, the Act should assist many inter-family disputes.

Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act - California

What is the Partition Action Process under the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in California?

Normally, in a partition action in California, a co-owner of a property has the absolute right to force the sale of the jointly owned property. However, under the UPHPA: “If a cotenant requests partition by sale, the bill would give cotenants who did not request the partition the option to buy all of the interests of the cotenants that requested partition by sale, as specified.”[3]Assem. Bill 633, 2021, ch. 119, (Ca. 2022) In other words, this creates a right of first refusal for non-partitioning parties. The default procedure for co-owners of heirs property requesting a partition by sale is now as follows:

  • The court will determine whether the property is heirs property [4]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.313(a)
  • If the court determines that the property is heirs property, the court will order an appraisal of the property to determine its fair market value (FMV) [5]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.316(a) OR if all parties have agreed to a value of the property or another method of valuation, the court will adopt that valuation [6]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.316(b)
    • Importantly, this step acts as a partition by appraisal, which is otherwise rarely found in partition actions
    • Any party may file an objection to the appraisal within 30 days after notice is sent [7]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.316(e)(3)
  • If an appraisal is ordered, a third party real estate appraiser will determine FMV no sooner than 30 days after the notice is sent whether or not an objection to the appraisal has been filed [8]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.316(f)
  • If a partition by sale has been requested, the court notifies all co-owners who did not request the partition by sale that they may buy the interests of the partitioning co-owner [9]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.317(a)
    • A non-partitioning co-owner has 45 days exercise their right of first refusal by giving notice that he or she intends to buy the interests of the partitioning co-owner [10]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.317(b)
  • If more than one non-partitioning party elects to purchase the interests of the partitioning party, the court will then allocate the right to buy the interests among the purchasing parties according to their fractional ownership percentages [11]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.317(f)(2)
  • The parties who expressed interest in purchasing the partitioning parties’ interest (ie exercised their right of first refusal) then have 60 days from when the court sent the notice to arrange financing [12]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.317(e)

The partition process under the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act creates added opportunities for non-partitioning parties to maintain an interest in the property they have inherited.

What if the Non-Partitioning Parties Do Not Purchase the Interests of the Partitioning Parties in California?

If the non-partitioning parties are unable to or do not want to exercise their right to purchase the interests of the partitioning parties, the court will then partition the property in kind or by sale (depending on what is appropriate) just as it would for non heirs property.

Can you Appoint a Referee Under the UPHPA?

A partition referee may be appointed under California Code of Civil Procedure 874.315 pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure 873.010. These statutes allow a referee, who is a neutral, third party, to oversee the equitable sale or division of a property. However, it is possible that defendants can raise appointing a referee under the UPHPA as an issue and they may ask for an appraisal.

Additional Appraisal Procedures Under the UPHPA in California

Additionally, “In an action for partition of heirs property, the court may apportion the costs of partition, including an appraisal fee, pursuant to Section 874.040, except that the court shall not apportion the costs of partition to any party that opposes the partition unless doing so is equitable and consistent with the purposes of this chapter.” [13]California Code of Civil Procedure 874.321.5 Indeed, non-partitioning parties will not bear the costs of partition unless the court deems it equitable for them to do so.

Even further, “The bill would permit the court to apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests, but would prohibit the apportionment of costs among parties that oppose the partition, except as specified.” [14]Assem. Bill 633, 2021, ch. 119, (Ca. 2022) Put another way, costs will be apportioned among partitioning parties in accordance with their ownership percentages.

Contact an Experienced Partition Attorney in California

If you want to end your co-ownership relationship, but your co-owner won’t agree, a partition action is your only option. Our experienced partition lawyers have years of experience ending co-ownership disputes and can help you unlock the equity in your property. For a free, 15 minute consultation with an experienced partition attorney at Talkov Law, call (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or fill out a contact form online.

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The attorneys at Talkov Law practice real estate law, family law, business law, and bankruptcy law. Our experienced lawyers specialize in assisting all parties involved in these civil disputes by providing the best legal representation.

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