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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.

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