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Monday, August 14, 2017

Does a man in possession of deeds necessarily own the property?

Well, you readers never let me get  bored, that's for sure. Here's an interesting question I received recently. I know that lots of people like to take care of legal transactions on their own to save money on legal fees, but this is taking it to extremes!

"My husband's uncle passed away with no will but gave all deeds and belongings to a stranger . My husband befriended this stranger and received all deeds from him. The letter given to him by my husband's uncle was not passed over to my husband. This man decided not to claim the land. This uncle who has passed has a surviving sister & brother in their late years. My husband feels because the deeds were given to him he has the right to claim all land because of the deeds. I disagree but wish to have an expert opinion on this legal issue."

This is one of the oddest questions I've ever had on this blog. I have never before seen people passing around land deeds as if they were no more than trading cards.

Your husband's uncle was entitled to give away his personal possessions as he did. However, it takes a bit more formal paperwork to transfer real estate. Currently the land belongs to whoever's name is on the title. The fact that someone else physically has the deed in his or her possession does not in any way give that person ownership of the land. Having your hands on the deed means nothing. Ownership of land comes with legal rights which are not extinguished by simply giving someone the deed. In addition, all transactions regarding land must be in writing.

It's possible that the "letter" you refer to might contain the right information, signatures, etc to qualify as a transfer of land, or perhaps an offer to transfer land. If it's just a letter from one guy to another, I doubt it, but I haven't seen it so I have to admit it's a possibility.

Based on what you have said here, I don't think "the stranger" ever owned the property in question. You said he decided not to claim the land, which I believe means he didn't register anything at the land registry to put the title into his name. Even if your husband had the letter you mentioned, I don't see how that would help anyone since the letter didn't mention your husband, and you haven't said anything about any documents transferring the property to your husband.

I do not believe your husband has any rights whatsoever based on the paperwork he has. If he really does think he has some claim to the land, I suggest that he take the paperwork to a lawyer for a review and discussion. If he cannot prove that the land was transferred to hiim, it should legally be divided among the uncle's siblings. I'm guessing that nobody has come forward to act as the administrator of the estate, but someone should do that and take control of this land situation.




11 comments:

  1. Is a handwritten note acceptable to leave stocks to someone? I wouldn't think so, but perhaps there's a legal spin on it that I don't know about?

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    Replies
    1. It could be, if that handwritten note can be seen as a will, and if it happens in a province that allows handwritten wills. There are a lot of variables here, but if the deceased had no other will and this note was clearly signed by him/her and clearly defined the assets to be given and the person to whom they were to be given, then it might work. I wouldn't want to count on it, but over the years I have had to probate a few unusual wills.

      Lynne

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  2. I'm guessing that nobody has come forward to act as the administrator of the estate, but someone should do that and take control of this land situation.[LB]
    It would seem strange to me that no one has come forth re this person's Estate. I also wonder if 'the stranger' got these deeds by nefarious means and realized that without the givers signature etc., found out he had no claim to the land. Did 'the stranger' get them from the rightful owner? This is indeed a strange one but an interesting question.

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    Replies
    1. I used to think it was strange that nobody came forward in situations where a family member passed away. Nowadays, though, I realize that there are thousands of families in which nobody has consulted a lawyer in generations, and nothing has changed hands legally for generations. I can't even tell you how many times someone has come in to my office to talk about selling a piece of land that still belongs to someone three or four generations ago because nobody thought it was worth actually doing the paperwork.

      They could have spent a few dollars paying a lawyer to make a will or a land transfer, but didn't want to. Now their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are paying thousands to untangle it all and get it into someone's name. Happens a lot and it keeps me in business, but it's hard on the later generations who have to deal with the mess.

      Lynne

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    2. People also don't know what they don't know.

      Unless previously experienced with another estate, dealing with an estate is not something many people know much about or even discuss until someone close passes.

      If there is no will, often, the deceased relatives expect matters will be dealt with automatically by government.

      Too often, inaccurate information provided by a neighbour or cousin is considered fact, otherwise, a closer relation often thinks their opinion should dictate.

      The internet now offers easy access to relevant info such as this blog, but a person first needs to actively take an interest and search for info as the info doesn't automatically come to them.

      Relatives often feel entitled to receive something, and will typically expect to receive items immediately. They may even attempt to proceed to take whatever they can without regard to what is legal or right.

      MR

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    3. You make some very good points. Often when I describe the process of dealing with a deceased's property, the person I'm talking to (typically a close family member) is surprised that anyone has to do anything. They really do think the government somehow steps in and takes care of things.

      You are also right that relatives take what they want in many cases, and that's what a lot of the court fights are about. Come to think of it, ALL of the litigation in my office right now is based on someone just taking what they think they are entitled to, regardless of the law.

      Lynne

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  3. "The letter given to him by my husband's uncle was not passed over to my husband". [from lady who wrote to LB]
    Curious as to why 'the letter' was not passed over to her husband, along with the deeds? Who is this 'stranger' ? Also, 'belongings'. What are they exactly? Gold wafers? Coveralls?
    Many unanswered questions. should the police be involved here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Makes you wonder, that's for sure.

      Lynne

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  4. Lynne..

    As seen..
    Avoid mistakes when placing assets into other names
    https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/taxes/avoid-mistakes-when-placing-assets-into-other-names/article36201009

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lynne FYI...USA Blog
    Two Reasons Why a Beneficiary May Become Belligerent
    http://www.thecommonexecutor.com/two-reasons-why-a-beneficiary-may-become-belligerent/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the referral to this article. I've now posted it for all to read. :)

      Lynne

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