Unless you work in real estate, you’ve probably never heard of heirs land and the complicated problems it can cause when the person who thinks they own the property wants to use it as collateral in a transaction or sell it on the open market. Heirs land, quite simply, is land that passed via intestate succession, often generations in the past, without proper recording of a will and deed.
Intestate Succession in Utah
When someone dies without leaving a will, the assets in their estate pass according to the state rules for intestate succession. These rules vary by state, though there are similarities. In Utah, the first step is to establish whether there was a wife and children at the time of the person’s death. If there was a wife, then the wife is entitled to a spousal share which represents a good portion of the estate. Children can complicate the matter, depending on whether they are children in common with your spouse or from a previous marriage. Without children or a spouse, the court will then look to give any assets in your estate to parents or siblings.
When your great-great-grandmother died and did not leave a will, her assets likely were divided among her living children. If this transfer was not recorded, however, and then your great-grandparents die, establishing the chain of ownership of a piece of property can quickly become a genealogy project as well as a legal case study.
Before a piece of property can be sold, a title abstractor will perform a title search to ensure that the sellers have clean title to a piece of property and are legally able to sell the property. This generally means identifying any mortgage and lien holders so they can be paid during the closing. However, sometimes the title abstractor finds that the owners do not have good title and that is a problem in establishing ownership. Just because your grandmother says she’s leaving the property to you, if that isn’t properly documented, it isn’t so.
Heirs land can lead to complications with establishing ownership which must be untangled before the property can be sold or leveraged. Often, the fact that the tax records reflect that the property is still in an estate is an indicator that the property has not cleanly moved from the estate. To sell will mean untangling that ownership and either ensuring that the seller does own the property or getting permission from all potential heirs to sell the property.
At Dunn Law Firm, we want to make sure your estate plan is comprehensive and includes all the details necessary to protect your assets and distribute them to your family and loved ones the way you want them to go rather than leaving them with an impossible tangle. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.