Partition Referee in a Family Dispute

Losing a parent is difficult, no matter the circumstances. When a parent dies, there are so many things to address, all while dealing with the emotional impact of such a huge loss. 


Sometimes there are conflicts between adult siblings when it comes to how to best divide up inherited property. In some cases, this conflict can even lead to legal disputes. A partition referee serves to help resolve these conflicts fairly and thoroughly. 

How common are property disputes between siblings?

If you are in a dispute with your siblings over your parent’s property, we want you to know that you are not alone! 


One law firm provides the following statistics from a recent survey:

  • 30% of people who were involved with a sibling dispute over inherited property stopped talking to each other because of the dispute. 
  • 30% also confirmed that they were “still very much divided” in their relationship because of the dispute. 
  • Meanwhile, only 12% of the respondents said that the dispute did not do any significant or long-lasting damage to the relationship. 
  • 44% of estate disputes are between siblings, as opposed to other relatives. 
  • The most common disputes are over land distribution. 

Clearly, property disputes affect countless Americans every year.  

Addressing disputes without getting the courts involved

City National Bank published a guide for resolving disputes with your siblings after the death of a parent. They recommend a few different solutions that you might not have considered. Solutions include:

  • Structuring a buyout
  • Selling the property and splitting the profits
  • Rent the property and split the profits

Keep in mind that the best way to avoid legal remedies is to avoid the conflict in the first place. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to discuss inheritance before a parent dies, but the more you discuss in advance, the better you can prepare for the inevitable process of distributing assets. 


Together, you and your siblings can address things like: What are your parent’s wishes, and what has led them to their conclusions? What do you each think is fair? How will you address a dispute if one arises? Is there someone who can serve as a neutral third party to assist in any division of assets, should there be any question? 


If this preparation and these different approaches don’t work, the partition remedy may be the next best step. Instead of continuing to argue over the dispute, it may be time to get the courts involved. 

What happens when a dispute is unresolvable? 

Sometimes, when adult siblings just can’t come to an agreement, one sibling may bring a legal action against the other(s). 


A partition action is a request to the court to divide real property equitably between multiple interested parties. Any co-owner of a piece of real estate can initiate a partition action in the state of California. 


If you find yourself unable to agree with your sibling or siblings about how to manage inherited property, you can petition the courts for a partition referee. 


A court-appointed referee is the neutral third party appointed by the court system to settle disputes and fairly distribute proceeds from the sale of real property. 


If a judge has appointed a partition referee to address disputes in your family, but you are not the one who requested it, you can be reassured that the referee is there to make sure that the solution is fair and reasonable to all parties involved. 

Griswold Law provides careful, professional partition referee services

Richardson “Red” Griswold has been appointed over 120 times in California’s court system in 15 different counties. He has served as a health and safety receiver, tenant habitability receiver, post-judgment receiver, rents/profits receiver, and partition referee.


If you have questions about partition referee services, we are happy to help! Contact Griswold Law today with your questions about how to settle disputes between yourself and your siblings. 

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