California Evidence Code 662 Requires Clear and Convincing Evidence of Real Property Ownership Contrary to Record Title

California Evidence Code Section 662 Clear and Convincing Evidence Standard in Partition and Quiet Title Ownership Disputes

California Evidence Code Section 662 is a fundamental rule of California real estate law that prevents record owners from being subjected to meritless claims by others claiming to be the equitable owner.

“According to the ‘form of title’ presumption, the description in a deed as to how title is held is presumed to reflect the actual ownership interests in the property.” Carne v. Worthington (2016) 246 Cal.App. 4th 548, 556 (quoting In re Marriage of Brooks & Robinson (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 176, 184–185).

This fundamental rule of California real estate is codified as Evidence Code § 662, which provides that: “The owner of the legal title to property is presumed to be the owner of the full beneficial title. This presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing proof.”

“This section applies when there is no dispute as to where legal title resides but there is question as to where all or part of the beneficial title should rest.” Coyne v. De Leo (2018) 26 Cal.App. 5th 801, 819, as modified on denial of reh’g (Aug. 28, 2018). “Section 662 applies to allegations that a party has beneficial rights to property pursuant to an oral agreement, even if title is not in their name.” DeMartini v. DeMartini, No. 214CV02722JAMCKD, 2018 WL 2102350, at *6 (E.D. Cal., May 4, 2018). The DeMartini court cited to California law providing that Section 662 applies where the “issue at trial was whether the parties had entered into an oral agreement that they were purchasing the property as equal partners.” Murray v. Murray (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1062, 1067. Thus, a plaintiff who “sought to establish a 50% interest in the property pursuant to an oral partnership agreement” based on “a contractual agreement which, if proven, would rebut the presumption that the…owners of legal title, [was] also the full beneficial owner…was required to establish her claim by clear and convincing evidence.” Tannehill v. Finch (1986) 188 Cal. App. 3d 224, 228.

The form of title “presumption cannot be overcome solely by tracing the funds used to purchase the property.” In re Marriage of Broderick (1989) 209 Cal. App. 3d 489, 496.

 “[T]he Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized [the clear and convincing evidence standard] as requiring evidence which is ‘clear, explicit, and unequivocal,’ ‘so clear as to leave no substantial doubt’ and ‘sufficiently strong to demand the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind.’” In re Marriage of Weaver (1990) 224 Cal. App. 3d 478, 487, n. 8 (applying Evid. Code § 662)[1]See People v. Caruso (1968) 68 Cal. 2d 183, 190 (“The phrase ‘clear and convincing evidence’ has been defined as ‘clear, explicit, and unequivocal,’ ‘so clear as to leave no substantial … Continue reading

“A fee simple title is presumed to be intended to pass by a grant of real property, unless it appears from the grant that a lesser estate was intended.” Civ. Code § 1105.

As the Supreme Court has explained, Evidence Code “Section 662 thus codifies the common law rule that oral trusts in derogation of title are disfavored and must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.” People v. Semaan (2007) 42 Cal.4th 79, 88.

What this means is that record owners of property in California should not be scared by those making claims to their real estate. However, equitable owners who can overcome this presumption by clear and convincing evidence should not hesitate to consider their options.

If you are the owner of record title in a grant deed, quitclaim deed or otherwise showing that you are the owner or have evidence contrary to record title, contact a quiet title attorney or partition attorney in California today to discuss your options to make a rightful claim to your property.

References

References
1 See People v. Caruso (1968) 68 Cal. 2d 183, 190 (“The phrase ‘clear and convincing evidence’ has been defined as ‘clear, explicit, and unequivocal,’ ‘so clear as to leave no substantial doubt,’ and ‘sufficiently strong to demand the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind.’”); see also Butte Fire Cases (2018) 24 Cal. App. 5th 1150.
About Scott Talkov

Scott Talkov is a partition lawyer in California. He founded Talkov Law Corp. after more than one decade of experience at a California real estate litigation firm, where he served as one of the firm's partners. He has been featured on ABC 7, CNN, KCBS, and KCAL-9, and in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Press-Enterprise, and in Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine. Scott has been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star for 9 consecutive years. He can be reached about new matters at info@talkovlaw.com or (844) 4-TALKOV (825568). He can also be contacted directly at scott@talkovlaw.com.

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