Q: Grandma (decedent) quit claimed house to aunt (now deceased) no known will, not in probate. I am last living relative.
Can I claim this house. If so how? The property has been vacant over a year. Deed still in aunt's name and someone recently paid taxes.
A: There is no such thing as "claiming" the house. If property is owned by someone who dies, then that property can be transferred by small estate affidavit if the amount is small and there is no real estate. Here, you are dealing with real estate, so the small estate affidavit is not an option. That means opening a probate estate. If you are the only living heir, then you are well-suited to present a petition to the court. If the property taxes were recently paid and you don't know who paid them, that is a red flag that the property taxes were in default and sold to a tax buyer. You need to act on that with due speed and purpose. There are time limits to when you can redeem and save the house from being acquired by the tax sale purchaser. If you don't understand these matters, then it is time to seek counsel. Whatever you decide to do, don't wait as time is your enemy.
An attorney or title company will need to perform a title search/examination to confirm ownership of the property, but assuming your aunt was indeed the sole owner as a result of the quitclaim deed, then title to the property would now be with her lawful heirs (subject to timely creditor claims and subject to divestment if a will is located).
If your aunt had no surviving spouse or descendants, then next in line to be her heirs are her surviving parents, brother, sister, or descendant of a brother or sister of the decedent (i.e., nieces, nephews, etc.), to the extent there are any. On the facts you proposed, it sounds like you may be the sole heir and may make claim to the house. To do so, you would need to petition the probate court in the county where your aunt resided at the time of her death, presumably the same county where the property is located, for letters of office and to declare heirship. You would need a lawyer for this.
Before you go through the time and expense of probate, however, you may want to first try to determine if there is any equity in the property (approximate fair market less liabilities), lienholders, or other creditors. You say someone recently paid the taxes - perhaps a mortgage company? If there is no equity in the house, or worse, negative equity, then pursuing the property might not be in your interests.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.