Bowie, MD asked in Probate for Virginia

Q: transferring a deed

I have been paying the taxes on property of deceased uncle and aunt since 2009.

I am the great nephew. All my great uncle brothers and Sisters are decease,

his wife was an only child. They have no children, I have been paying for maintenance since 2004.

I have reach out to several family members to help pay the maintenance on the land.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: You need to consult a lawyer. Paying taxes and maintenance had no relationship to owning title. And, your entitlement to contribution depends on your record keeping and the statute of limitations. With a proper strategy, you might persuade the title owners to give or sell you title.

Ross Cameron Hart
Ross Cameron Hart
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Salem, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: I've heard this story over and over for the past 45 years. The only way to fix this is to consider a Partition suit.

Three people – A, B, & C - own property, A wants their 1/3 share. (note: this procedure works no matter how many people own a share of the property; for this example I’m using only three owners. The reader can ‘do the math’ as to multiple owners)

A is entitled to get it. If B & C don’t cooperate, A can file a partition suit and ask the court to sell the property and - after a LOT of attorneys fees, divide what is left.

If B & C agree to sell and divide the proceeds, they can agree on a real estate agent to market the property and find a buyer. The closing agent does the math and each gets a check for their 1/3 of the net proceeds after closing costs.

If B or C, (or both) want to buy out A's share, after getting a lawyer to help through the process and make sure that A's title is clear they make an offer and either write a check or get a loan. Deciding on the value of the property is the fun part – assume the property is assessed (what the government thinks it's worth for taxes) for $210,000. (The property could be worth more or less than that number - an appraiser can give a more accurate value) Then, since there won't be most of the costs of a sale (commissions, point concessions, etc) through a real estate agent, you can adjust the price to reflect the savings. I recommend to my clients buying out another's part that they reduce the 'value' of the property by 10% and then apply the math. In this example 10% of $210,000 is 21,000; leaving $189,000; divide that by three leaves a price of $63,000 for A's share of the property.

If there is no agreement, then any one of the co-owners can file suit to force a sale – this is called a Partition Suit. Partition suits are horribly expensive and take a lot of time and money Here is an ESTIMATED timeline, with days – for each segment - to accomplish; for total possible time add these up – it can take a year and a half.

1. Title examination, draft suit, serve papers, get responses from defendants 60 – 90 days

2. Court hearing to schedule further proceedings– 30 days.

3. “Discovery” (legal process to see all their evidence before the hearing; they get to see ours also) and Hearing (presentation of all evidence to the court or Commissioner in Chancery including testimony of parties and witnesses) – 120 to 150 days

4. Receive and review Report from the Commissioner in Chancery (if one assigned). 60 days

5. Court hearing on report and any objections filed with report; entry of court order disposing of property by allotment or sale – 60 days

6. Carry out Court order – 90 days (depending on market conditions)

a. Sell the property

b. ask the court to approve the sale and direct payment of costs directly related to the sale; (court MAY direct payment to owners at this time or defer it to the next step)

7. Court hearing on fees to attorneys and distribution of remaining funds from account – 30 days

8. Final distribution of funds and reporting same to court – 30 days

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