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P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  16 yrs. of trial experience
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My mother and I have been paying the taxwes on a lot in town

Customer Question

My mother and I have been paying the taxwes on a lot in town for approx. 50 yrs. I am my mother's sole heir. The lot s' title was left all these years as "... White Estate' how would I get a clear title? I live in TX and names and locations of all possible heirs are unknow to me! How is the least expensive way for me to get a clear title? Thanks
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years experience. Hopefully I can help you with your legal question.

You mention "White estate"...is that the last name of your mom?

Is this a case where your mom had title and paid on the property?

Or a case where someone else had title but you and your mom paid taxes on the property?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


White is last name of Mom

 

My mothers Uncle had died and the property was about to go into a sheriffs auction . The Sheriff told my dad and he just pick up and started paying the taxes on the property. After Dad died my Mom took over paying them; then when she passed I have for approx. 15 years been paying them. The local tax office sends me the tax notice every year to my address addressed as "The White Estate" but to my PO Box.

Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.

That makes sense.

What you describe, you MAY have an action for "adverse possession"

Adverse possession is a legal doctrine which allows an individual to acquire title to real property which belongs to another.

The statute governing the rules of adverse possession is Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code Sec.16.021 et seq. ("CPRC"). The statute defines adverse possession as "an actual and visible appropriation of real property, commenced and continued under a claim of right that is inconsistent with and is hostile to the claim of another person."

Case law adds that it must be true that the possessor of the property actually does possess it (the belief of entitlement to possess is not enough), possesses it continuously (sporadic possession is not sufficient), and that he peaceably and intentionally asserts a claim of right to the exclusion of all others.

It is not enough to be merely caring for the property temporarily, or even paying the taxes on it, until the owner reappears.

SO in this case, if you took steps to "possess" the property. For example, built on it in some way, or regularly occupied or even traveled on the property? And have done so for 50 years? Then you have a great claim to adverse possession.

If that is the case, you can file a claim in the county court (the county where the land is located) and ask the court to transfer title to your name.

Now...if you do not meet the element of possession (can not show you have possessed the property) you have a few options. You can start to "possess" the property. Again, this can be as simple as building a fence or an outbuilding on the property and regularly visiting the property. If you do so? After as little as 3 years you can file a claim to modify title.

OR you can file a probate claim...it sounds like your mom may be a beneficiary of your Uncle's estate, and you are a beneficiary of her estate...so you would have some claim to the property. The problem with this is that if there are other heirs to the property, they would also have a claim. Your mom and you would would have a claim for credit for the taxes paid...but it may be other heirs also have a stake in this. So if there is any way to file for adverse possession, I would go that route.


Let me know if you have more questions.
P. Simmons, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 27136
Experience: 16 yrs. of trial experience
P. Simmons and 13 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Thanks Excellent answers

Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
welcome...thank you and best of luck with this mess

Phil

Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Do all possible heirs ie aunts, uncles cousins and others have to be contacted by me or the Court if you know where they live; in order to do an "adverse possesion",before the Court can render a decision? My concern in contacting all possible heirs is that it would open up a hornets nets and then legal fees would end up more than the lot is worth. The only reason I want possision is solely based on the principle that me and my imediate family have paid the taxes and maintained possesion all these years and a clear title should /and needs to cleared up for me to be able to pass to my daughter someday without complications on down the line.

Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Great question.

The short answer is that it will be up to the court.

You will need to hire a lawyer to prepare and present the claim to the court

So you would need to notify the owner.

Though in this case, the owner is deceased.

I would argue that there is no need to notify anyone else...the argument is that since no heir has seen fit to probate the estate (I assume that that is the case...no one hase stepped forward to probate) that potential heirs have waived their right to notice (particularly after so many years)

That is why you want to fight this in district court not probate court (since the fight is simpler).

Now...the judge will decide if you have to go to probate first. But I bet that is not required. Since these are different courts (the district court that handles title disputes is different than the probate court), I would bet the district court judge allows you to proceed with notice by publication.

Again, this assumes you meet the requirement of "possession" as required for adverse possession.

Is it possible the court tells you "go to the probate court first then come back"?

Sure...but unlikely.

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P. Simmons
P. Simmons
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16 yrs. of trial experience