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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55583
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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Our Church has a deed to property that was deeded in 1925 and

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Our Church has a deed to property that was deeded in 1925 and then the same property was deeded to another party in 1965 by the same persons that deeded it to our Church.
How can the ownership be resolved?
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

Good morning. Was the deed to the church recorded in the real property records of the city/county in which the property is located? Thanks.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes the deed was recorded in the county.

Thank you for following up. In that case, the property belongs to the church. Once the property was transferred to the church, the property belonged to the church and no longer belonged to the prior owner. Thus, any later deed would be ineffective because the prior owner would not have the legal ability to transfer property the prior owner no longer owned. Also, since the church's deed was recorded, the subsequent recipient cannot claim status of a bona fide third party purchaser and claim title due to the "race the courthouse" concept where the first deed recorded actually gets the property. That's why it's always important to record the deed when given...i.e., to protect against just this situation. The subsequent recipient's claim would be against the grantor, but the subsequent recipient would not be entitled to the property itself.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The Church has not paid property taxes due to the Church being exempt.
The parties that was deeded the property in 1965 has been paying taxes

on the property. Will this effect the ownership in any way?

Thanks for your follow up. Is the property being used by either party?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No the property if open land, but it is a part of a block of land that has an oil well on the block of land.

Thanks. The church is the rightful owner and because the church is exempt, the church owed no property taxes. The subsequent recipient would have a claim to recover back taxes against both the grantor and the tax appraiser, but paying the tax would not give the subsequent recipient ownership of land not owned. The only hope the subsequent recipient would have would be a claim for adverse possession. Adverse possession is the process of claiming title to real estate by taking it and occupying it for a period of time. Adverse possession requires the following conditions to be met: i) actual possession of the property; ii) open and notorious use of the property; iii) exclusive use of the property; iv) hostile or adverse use of the property; and v) continuous use of the property. In Alabama, the duration of such possession is ten (10) years if the claimant and/or his predecessor has a deed or other color of title recorded at least ten (10) years, has annually listed the land for ten (10) years for taxation, or, has acquired title by descent or devise from a predecessor who had title and was in possession. Twenty (20) years possession is necessary if the claimant does not possess the land under color of title. Alabama Code §6-5-200. In order to claim title through adverse possession, one would need to file a suit to quiet title.
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