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Partition Referee

Many states have statutes governing disputes between joint owners of real property. In such instances, owners may file a lawsuit to compel the sale of property via partition. In California, CA Code of Civil Procedure 872.210 allows a court to determine whether a litigant may partition real property and if so, an interlocutory judgment for partition is entered. The interests of the owners are determined, a partition is ordered and the manner and method of partition, via a partition referee is identified. California Civil Code Section 873.010 authorizes the court to appoint the referee and the duties and powers of the referee are set pursuant to court order. This includes the power to sell the property per CA Code of Civil Procedure 873.510 and subsequent confirmation hearing including possible overbid per CA Code of Civil Procedure 873.740

Who We Work With

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Trust & Estate Attorneys

Trust & Estate attorneys often seek appointment of partition referees when family members inherit property, and a dispute arises regarding the sale of the property.


Trial attorneys often seek appointment of partition referees when co-owners of real property get into a dispute regarding the sale of the property.

Types of Cases/Properties

Partition cases typically involve family members or partners/investors in real property. These individuals develop a dispute regarding the ownership of the property.

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Clients Who Trusted Us

As an attorney representing secured creditors who provide C&I loans, I have needed to seek the appointment of a receiver due to loan defaults. Stephen Donell, Receiver, is a take-charge, dependable and results-oriented professional with whom we have a long-standing history. We highly recommend his services as receiver to other lenders and creditors.

Attorney, San Francisco CA
San Francisco, CA

As lenders’ counsel, our firm has worked with FedReceiver, Inc. for many years in connection with real property defaults and several cases involving the appointment of a Receiver. Mr. Donell and his team have distinguished themselves as knowledgeable and effective court appointed receivers.

Attorney, Los Angeles CA
Beverly Hills, CA

Our firm has had multiple opportunities to work with the professionals at FedReceiver and the results have been extremely positive in all of our partition referee and receivership matters.

Attorney, Los Angeles CA
Los Angeles, CA

I have worked with Stephen Donell in multiple cases where he was appointed as receiver over assets secured by loans originated from our lending institution. Mr. Donell’s expertise and experience have been invaluable in the protection of the bank’s loan security.

Lender, Orange County CA
Orange County, CA

Mr. Donell has served as court-appointed Receiver in multiple matters in connection with partnership litigation filed by our firm. Mr. Donell has demonstrated his knowledge regarding asset preservation, forensic investigations, and fiduciary duty violations, and his actions have resulted in positive results for my clients’ interests.

Attorney, Los Angeles CA
Los Angeles, CA

About our court-appointed partition referees

A partition action is the only court ordered process in California to bring an end to real estate co-ownership disputes. Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 872.210, a partition action is a legal process taken to divide a California real estate equitably among its co-owners.

Our experienced partition referees have experience in selling residential and commercial property throughout California. This process may include an analysis of competing claims, an accounting of receipts and disbursements, the use of forensic accountants any report to the court with recommendations regarding disbursements to the co-owners. Consideration must be given to secured and unsecured creditors as well as competing claims of each co-owner ultimately culminating in an order from the court directing the referee to distribute funds pursuant to court order.

Stephen J. Donell Los Angeles

President of FedReceiver, Inc., Jalmar Properties, Inc. and Donell Expert Services, Inc.

James H. Donell Los Angeles

Founder and Chief Executive Office of FedReceiver, Inc. and Jalmar Properties, Inc.

Todd D. Donell Los Angeles

Executive Vice President of FedReceiver, Inc. and Jalmar Properties, Inc.

Sarah R. Bates Los Angeles

Vice President of FedReceiver, Inc. and Jalmar Properties, Inc.

Locations Served

With cases involving assets throughout the country and internationally, FedReceiver, Inc. provides nation-wide receivership services including international asset recovery.

Alameda, Butte, County of San Francisco, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Marin, Orange County, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernadino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Ventura County, and the California District Court

Las Vegas, Carson City, Clark, Douglas, Elko and Washoe County

Phoenix, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave and Pima County

States with cases/assets include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.

How we work together

We match our training, experience, expertise, licensing and credentials with the needs of each case to identify the appropriate use of the proposed remedy including receivership, partition referee, provision director and dissolution manager.

Reach out

Reach out to us via our contact page or call our office.

Set an Appointment

An initial call will allow for an initial assessment of the proposed case.

Sample Pleadings & Orders

With approximately 800 cases, FedReceiver has a vast library of exemplars including motions seeking appointment of referee, orders appointing referee, interlocutory judgments and memorandum of points & authorities.


We offer excellent references with local and national law firms, accounting firms and clients.

Court Experience

Given our decades of experience and hundreds of cases, we have appeared in state/federal court and have excellent relationships with numerous courts/judges.

California Partition Referee FAQs

What is a Court Partition Referee?

A partition referee is appointed in connection with the filing of a lawsuit involving the partition of real property. After an interlocutory judgment is obtained, a partition referee may be appointed. The partition referee takes possession in order to sell the property pursuant to the court order. Read more.

What is a California Partition Action?

In the State of California when more than one person is a co-owner of the property and one of those individuals wants to sell and the other does not want, the law in the State of California allows the sale of property through a legal action known as partition. Read more.

Why would a co-owner file a partition suit?

A co-owner of real estate in the State of California may seek to force a sale through the use of a partition referee. This is accomplished by filing a lawsuit for partition and seeking to have a court-appointed referee appointed by the court. It is very common for family members who inherit property from their deceased relatives to end up in disputes. One relative may want to hold onto the property and another relative may want to sell the property. Read more.

What is a partition by sale lawsuit?

This is a process in the State of California that involves a court-ordered sale of jointly owned property. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 872.210 establishes the legal procedures that may be taken in order to compel the sale of jointly owned real estate. This usually occurs as a result of a disagreement between two or more owners of real property when one owner wants to sell the property and another does not want to do so. A typical scenario involves children that have inherited real estate from their deceased parents.

There are 2 primary types of partition actions. One is known as a partition by sale and in this instance, the court divides the property into separate portions based upon a ruling of the court and the partition referee distributes the sales proceeds pursuant to a court order. The 2nd type of partition action is known as a partition in kind. Although there is another method known as partition by appraisal where one party is ordered to buy out the ownership interests of the other, this is not common.

What is the partition referee appointment process?

A joint real property owner must file a lawsuit to have respective ownership interests partitioned. This occurs when one co-owner of real property wants to sell the property but the other co-owners do not want to sell. The filing of the complaint permits the forced sale of the property.

A trial occurs thereafter to adjudicate the propriety of the plaintiff’s right to have the property partitioned and seek the appointment of a referee. If the Court approves the plaintiff’s right to seek a court-appointed partition referee, an interlocutory judgment for partition is entered. After entry of the interlocutory judgment, the Court may issue an order appointing a referee.

The Interlocutory Judgment determines the respective ownership interests and how to divide the property to be partitioned, orders the partition of the property, and determines the method of partition.

What is the partition referee sales process?

The property may be sold either via public or private sale pursuant to CCP §873.610 and the referee may make recommendations with respect thereto including the “manner, terms, and conditions of sale”. The Court will only approve the referee’s recommended manner of sale after the conclusion of a hearing upon noticed motion.

Property is typically sold by private sale with the use of a real estate broker. The Court will confirm the sale at a confirmation hearing, at which time, the Court may confirm the proposed sale including all terms/conditions contained in the purchase and sale agreement, or it may reject the proposed sale and direct that a new sale be made. The minimum overbid is an increased offer that exceeds the sale price by 10% on the first $10,000.00 and 5% on the amount in excess thereof and the appeal period begins upon the circulation of the order confirming the sale and expires 60 days thereafter. The referee may only execute the referee’s deed upon receipt of the signed order confirming the sale.

How does a partition referee distribute sales proceeds?

The Court may order an accounting prior to the distribution of proceeds with recommended offsets. This may be a result of waste or nuisance caused by one of the co-owners of the property. It could also relate to rents collected by one party and not shared with another co-owner. The referee will ordinarily file a report with the Court, including the accounting, and recommended distribution. Following the hearing and receipt of an order approving distribution, the referee may proceed with disbursing net sales proceeds pursuant to Court Order.

Sales proceeds shall be distributed in accordance with CCP §873.820 which directs the referee on how to apply priority to such proceeds which includes, in order of priority (1) sales expenses, including referee’s fees (2) other costs of partition, (3) real property liens; and (4) distribution of the balance to the parties as determined by the Court.

Can I be forced to sell my share of the house that I own with my sibling?

The statutory scheme set up in the State of California involving partition actions may result in the ability to force the sale of property jointly owned by family members. Since California recognizes the absolute right to partition in instances of inheritance, it is unlikely that a joint owner of inherited real estate may successfully challenge the appointment of a partition referee and partition sale of jointly owned real property in the circumstance.

In California, the premise that joint owners of real property have the right to partition is summarized in the following case: “Ordinarily, if the party seeking partition is shown to be a tenant in common, and as such entitled to the possession of the land sought to be partitioned, the right to partition is absolute, and cannot be denied, ‘either because of any supposed difficulty, nor on the suggestion that the interest of the cotenants will be promoted by refusing the application or temporarily postponing action, . . .’” Priddel v. Shankie (1945) 69 Cal.App. 2d 319, 325.

In summary, you may indeed be forced to sell your share of a house that you and your siblings inherited.

Review the chapter authored by Mr. Donell

Reviving the financially distressed business book by written by Receiver Stephen Donell, CCIM, CPM

Reviving the Financially Distressed Business

Reviving The Financially Distressed Business is the essential guide for business owners and corporate leaders whose companies are under—or anticipating—financial difficulties. See Chapter 11, Receiverships, written by Court Receiver Stephen Donell, CCIM, CPM

Steve Donell’s contribution to the book “Reviving a Financially Distressed Business” reflects not only his expertise as a receiver, but his sound judgment on how receivership can be used to effectively advance a financially troubled business.” 

– Brian Davidoff, Esq. Author and Editor

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