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I purchased a house in Houston Texas 3 years ago. I received…

Customer Question
I purchased a house...

I purchased a house in Houston Texas 3 years ago. I received a deed from 3 of the 4 heirs. I have been unable to locate the 4th heir. The county tax office has just filed a suit to collect 2016 taxes. I need to collect maintenance expenses plus these taxes or have the title cleared.

Lawyer's Assistant: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

Texas

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

I have recorded the deed to me from the other 3 heirs. I have been served with the tax suit.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

The unlocated heir is probably in California. My desire is to have the title cleared by naming me the sole owner.

Submitted: 3 months ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 1 minute by:
1/2/2018
Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago
Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 34,389
Experience: Began practicing law in 1992
Verified

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

Please allow me several minutes to read your facts and type my response both initially and when you add a follow up question or add facts. Please don't ask "are you there", etc., since when you post it can erase what I am working on. If we are having a conversation unless I tell you I am going offline, I will be here but I may be doing research.

While waiting for a response, please do not keep asking questions, such as "Are you there", etc. since that can erase whatever I am writing and also interrupts the thought process. I will be back with you as soon as I can do any research necessary, formulate a response, and type it in.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

Is there a specific question with which I could assist?

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

I am about to sign off for the evening but will be back online tomorrow.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
I am still waiting on my answer.
Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

At 10:44, two minutes after you posted your facts, I asked if you had a specific question with which I could assist? All that is showing on my screen is a list of facts and something you want to achieve but no question.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
I thought the question was obvious, how can I get the title clear or collect from the unlocated heir? Do I need to file a quiet title suit?
Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

No questions are obvious since when we guess at what a customer is asking invariably they tell us "I already knew that".

You wouldn't file a Suit to Quiet Title since that type of lawsuit inherently involves the defendant(s) having no claim whatsoever. While that may be the case, your facts so far don't indicate that.

A very similar lawsuit is a Trespass to Try Title (and you can file both this type of lawsuit and the Suit to Quit Title at the same time). The Trespass to Try Title is based on the clearing the title because the state statutes give you that right, as they would if you bought the property at a tax sale and the heirs don't have a probate pending, etc.

I'll add some more below.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

To maintain an action of trespass to try title, the person bringing the suit must have title to the land sought to be recovered. Ramsey v. Grizzle, 313 S.W.3d 498, 505 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 2010, no pet.). A plaintiff's right to recover depends on the strength of his or her own title, not the weaknesses of the title of his or her adversary. In a trespass-to-try-title action, the plaintiff is required to prove his or her title by proving (1) a regular chain of title of conveyances from the sovereign to the plaintiff; (2) a superior title to that of the defendant out of a common source; (3) title by limitations; or (4) prior possession which has not been abandoned. Teon Mgmt., LLC v. Turquoise Bay Corp., 357 S.W.3d 719, 728 (Tex. App.--Eastland 2012, no pet. h.).

Due to the conveyance to you by the government following the tax sale, you appear to meet all of these requirements. It also appears that the redemption period (two years) has passed, so that shouldn't be an issue.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

The issue I see is that you have to get service over the 4th heir somehow. If you can't, "after diligent effort", locate them to serve them personally then you can serve them by substituted service such as publishing in the local newspaper. You can expect the judge to ask you and your lawyer what steps you've taken to locate the 4th heir and if he judge doesn't feel they're sufficient they will turn down your request at that point and tell you to keep trying to find them.

You will want to talk to your lawyer and see if your judge is likely to appoint an "attorney ad litem" to represent the 4th heir. If so, the attorney will attempt to locate them and, if they can't, report back to the court. The attorney ad litem will then stand in for the 4th heir and ask a few questions, primarily about how you got the property and what you did to locate the 4th heir.

Normally after this hearing the judge issues the order that clears title You will be responsible for all of the ad litem's fees and other costs

Please ask any follow up questions you have.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Thanks.
Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

I'm not sure if I made it clear when I reread it but a Suit to Quiet Title is a equitable claim based on fairness whereas a Trespass to Try Title is based almost solely on the statutes.

If your question has been answered then I'd offer my best wishes to you and ask that you please not forget to leave a 5 Star Positive Rating so I receive credit for my work. A bonus or "tip" is, of course, appreciated but neither required nor expected. Regardless, please feel free to ask any follow-up questions in this thread. I want to be sure all of your questions are answered.

Even if you are a subscriber or have a trial membership please leave a 5 Star Positive Rating so that the website knows I have answered your question.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Dwayne B., Attorney replied 3 months ago

I will be signing off in just a little while but will be back on tomorrow.

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