IN THE UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
|DO NOT PUBLISH
This case disposition has no value as precedent and is not intended for publication. Any publication, either in print or electronically, is contrary to the intent and wishes of the court.
LLOYD and HAZAN CLIFTON, No. 95-10818
Memorandum of Decision
Debtors Lloyd and Hazan Clifton reside on 4.5 rural acres near Cloverdale, California. They
acquired the property in 1988, by a single deed. They have always treated the property as a
single tract, and use all of it. They are not legally entitled to convey any portion of it separately
from the other parts. However, judgment creditors Gary and Judy Gerdes allege that the debtors
are not entitled to claim the entire parcel as an exempt homestead because at one time, long
before the debtors bought the property, it had been three separate parcels and is so described in
the deed's legal description. The court is unconvinced by this argument and will grant the
debtors' motion to avoid the Gerdes' judgment lien.
The Gerdes' argument is based on an 80-year-old case, Guernsey v. Douglas
, 171 Cal. 329
(1915). Even assuming that this case still recites applicable California law, it is easily
distinguished. In that case, the debtor owned five contiguous small lots. There was no evidence
that the debtor used all five in connection with his home. The decision is silent as to whether
they were legally separate parcels. The court found sufficient evidence to support the trial court's
finding that the homestead character did not attach to four of the five lots.
Here, all of the evidence supports the homestead character of the entire property. The debtors
purchased the property as one parcel and use all of it for residential and agricultural purposes.
The size is typical for residences and small farms in the area. Aside from that fact that at one
time in the past the property was comprised of three separate parcels, there is nothing at all upon
which to base an argument that the property is not a single homestead. The court declines to find
that this fact alone defeats or limits a declared homestead.
Under both California law and federal bankruptcy law, homestead exemptions are liberally
construed in favor of debtors. In re Pladson
, 35 F.3d 462, 465 (9th Cir.1994); Webb v. Trippet
235 Cal.App.3d 647, 650 (1991). Pursuant to FRBP 4003(c), the objecting party has the burden
of proving that an exemption is not properly claimed. In this case, the evidence clearly
established that the debtors' entire property is properly their exempt homestead.
For the foregoing reasons, the debtors' motion to avoid the Gerdes' lien will be granted.
Counsel for the debtors shall submit an appropriate form of order.
Dated: April 4, 1996 _______________________