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LegalGems
LegalGems, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 7415
Experience:  Private Practice; Elder Law Attorney; Estate Planning; Attorney Mentor
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Our grandfather has been dead over 50 years and the deed to

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Our grandfather has been dead over 50 years and the deed to his real estate property in Virginia is still under his name. There are no living children of my grandfather (Mr. Jones) and there are 10 surviving grandchildren, and I am one of them. The problem: About 20 years ago, Mr. Jones's 2 surviving daughters allowed a great-granddaughter (Ms. Thomas) to live in his property without written contract and verbal terms were to pay the taxes. Without permission or buy-in, Ms. Thomas made several improvements to property to suit her needs. Around 2007 or so the great-grandchild, Ms. Thomas, moved from Mr. Jones property and bought home of her own. Since 2007, me and another grandchild (my cousin) have shared the tax payment while pursing affidavit of heirs which is still not done. Meanwhile, Ms. Thomas will not surrender keys to the property nor remove her remaining belongings. Ms. Thomas feels she owns the property because she made the improvements. What recourse do we the grandchildren have who do not want Ms. THomas to have any access to this property?

LegalGems :

Hi; My goal is to provide you with great service - if you have any questions during our chat, please ask! I'll do my best to ensure your satisfaction! It sounds like she is claiming the property based on adverse possession. However, according to VA statute 8.01-237 this requires 15 years of constant possession in order to do so. Such possession must be open and notorious,and 'hostile" to the real owner. This means without permission. If these requirements are not met, then there would be no claim to the land. A legal proceeding for specific performance (return keys, vacate property) would need to be initiated.

Customer:

Hi, About the 'adverse possession', I'm not clear on that. Could you break that down a little more? My thinking is that Ms.Thomas thinks she has rights to the property because she spent her own money to remodel kitchen, new roof, etc.

LegalGems :

Generally a tenant voluntarily improves the property, unless there is an agreement to the contrary (ie reimbursement). Adverse possession is also referred to as "squatter rights". It's when a person tries to take legal ownership of property that they occupy, even though they never "paid" for the property. If the heirs were aware of the improvements and "acquiesced" (let her keep doing the improvements without making it clear that they would not reimburse her), it is possible that a judge would order reimbursement for money expended, or for the amount it increased the property value. However, again, generally that requires the owner's approval and most judges will not allow a tenant to claim compensation for improvements that they made on their own.

Customer:

Thank you for the clarification.

LegalGems :

You are welcome! I'm glad you pointed it out!

Customer:

Are you saying that we'd have to hire attorney to initiate return keys, vacate property?

LegalGems :

You can first send a demand letter stating your interest in the property, and request the voluntary return of keys after the property is vacated (and a time frame for doing so). If this fails, then unfortunately you would need to hire an attorney. However, many judges will award attorney fees and costs in order to "restore" the plaintiffs to the position they should have been in but for the necessity of bringing legal action.

Customer:

Thanks for your assistance; very useful information. Enjoy the rest of your day!

LegalGems and other Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
I wanted to be sure and thank you for using JA/Pearl.

I hope you found the information I provided useful. Hopefully the individual will vacate the house voluntarily so legal action will not need to be taken.

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