What Do You Mean I Don’t Own the Property? I’ve Been Paying Taxes on it…

What Do You Mean I Don’t Own the Property? I’ve Been Paying Taxes on it…
Hi, I’m Beth with TB Properties Buys Land. Today we’re going to discuss a conversation that we have way more often than we would like, and we typically end up hearing something like this:

“What do you mean I don’t own the property? I’ve been paying property taxes on it for 10 plus years!”

When we have a conversation like this and the land seller makes that statement, it’s often because of heirship issues. What does that mean? Before we get to that, first, if you own property – let’s say it has been passed down through the generations and it was willed to you, the will went through probate, your name is now on the deed, then you have nothing to worry about. This is important to note: if your name is on the deed, you own the property. However, let’s just say your grandmother owned the property, it was passed down to your mother, your mother’s passed away, and now you’re paying property taxes on it – that is not a guarantee that you own the property.

One thing to know is that the tax collector in the assessor’s office, they will always find someone to pay the property taxes on property in their county. Just because your name is on that tax statement doesn’t mean that you own the property. They will always find someone to pay taxes on it. What matters is not whose name is on the tax statement but whose name is on the deed. Back to heirship: if this property was passed down, the chances are that there may be other heirs to the property. With that in mind, we have to look back to who originally owned the property, whose name is on the last deed.

One of the things that a title company looks for is everyone who might be associated with the property. Let’s just say it’s your grandma who bought the property. They’re going to want to know how many descendants does your grandmother have? Was she married again? Maybe there was a second husband. How many children did she have? Are those children all living? Do those children have children? When it comes down to that, if there’s not a will in place, all descendants of the original property owner may have a right to that property, and all of them would have to then sign off on the sale of the property. Even if you’ve been paying property taxes on it for 10 plus years, you may not be able to legitimately sell that property on your own.

Now, it’s very important to note that every state and county has different guidelines for remedying inheritance issues and some are more forgiving than others. In some areas one option may be a lawsuit that can be used to get around this and assert that this is your property. It really depends on the location of the property. It also depends on how many heirs there are. We have had situations where there’s so many heirs that the people don’t even know who the heirs are or where they can be found. There are times when the title company, their records go back so far, and they don’t have birth certificates, perhaps, for the last known owner of the property or their children. That was something that I recently ran into. When it comes to situations like this, it makes it awfully difficult to be able to sell the property.

When I’m telling you that this is heirship property and there’s too many heirs and you can’t sell the property, understand that this is kind of a blanket statement that I’m making. Every state, every county have different laws, and there may be different remedies. Your unique situation may have a remedy. It also may not. Still, don’t be afraid to reach out to us if you have heirship questions about your property. But I do want you to know that just because your name is on the tax statement, it doesn’t mean that you outright own that property. These are all questions that we’ll ask you, and we’ll walk you through that and try to guide you through the process.

We buy heirship property quite often, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get it through the title cleanup, but we do try to help people out where we can. I will tell you that there have been situations where we have not been able to buy the property because of some of these heirship issues. It certainly goes both ways. But if you have questions and you want to talk about your individual property and your situation, we’re happy to help. We look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks again.
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