I am going to have to go offline in a bit, and I am going to provide an answer based on the information I have.
So you have a strange situation here, and there are two ways to go about resolving it. First, a bit of background.Probate
When someone passes away, then their estate has to be distributed. The problem is that without probate - with assets such as titled property or bank accounts (those that do not have a pay on death clause) - this is hard to do. This is because you cannot switch over the assets without an order from the probate court, and simply a Certificate of Death will not do. A Certificate of Death simply states that someone has passed on, but does not give you the right to really do anything in the deceased's name.
So one files probate. Once probate is filed, the Executor of the estate gets something called a Letter of Testament/Administration
(hereinafter "Letter"). This Letter will allow the Executor to switch over the assets from the deceased individual to whoever will own the property. It is like a "Power of Attorney," but from the Court. Without that Letter, there is no way to transfer titled property and switch the assets into the beneficiaries' hands.
If there was a Will, the beneficiaries are decided per the Will. If there was no will, the beneficiaries are decided by default succession law of the state - see here
, and scroll down to "Who Gets What..."
The problem here is that the Will is LOST, and someone in your situation is not formally adopted. While the Court will sometimes recognize an unofficial adoption, this is generally a high standard and hard to meet. Therefore, the Court may
decide to give the title to an extended biological family member, instead.Adverse Possession
Someone in your situation may wish to get the title via adverse possession, i.e. squatter's rights. This requires proving to the Court that the property was held on to with:
Hostile Possession- The property is taken without permission from the property owner (herein starting from date of dad's passing);
Actual Possession - The claimant must physically possess the property in order to claim title.
Open and Notorious - Possession of the property must be open and obvious to casual onlookers.
Exclusive and Continuous for a Specified Period of Time - the person claiming title must have been the exclusive possessor of the property for 15 years (in Virginia).
One can file for adverse possession with the Court via a QUIET TITLE action which may be more practical, and get title this way.
I hope this helps and clarifies. Gentle Reminder: Use the SEND
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