What is the best thing to do about 40 acres of land that has never had a will

My Grandfather bought 40 acres of land about 100 years ago in Rufe, Oklahoma. Since then, He, his wife, and 3 children have all passed, with no will Now there are 9 cousins. I tried to buy, but not all would agree to sell. Now I want to survey, fence, clear, get water on it, and use it to run cattle on. None of the rest want to use it. Can I do that and not have to pay a lease to the other cousins? I live within 55 miles of it, the others are at least 4 hours from the land. My Mother paid the taxes on it from 1988 til she passed in 2004, and since then I have paid the taxes on it. None of the rest want to buy, sell, or use it. I would like to use it if I don't have to mess with the rest of them. Also, if one wants to buy, will I have to be repaid for the improvements and labor?

Snow, OK -

Attorney Answers (3)

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Probate Attorney - Livonia, MI
Answered

You have a big fat huge mess on your hands. You cannot LEGALLY do anything with this land. Whatever you do is subject to challenge from any other heirs and you run the risk of losing whatever you have invested. If you are okay with that, then go ahead and ranch away.

The only way to legally straighten this out is to get to a lawyer and have him/her sort it out for you. You have at LEAST one probate estate, and perhaps more to deal with. The property is still titled in your grandfather or grandmother's name, most likely, but that is anybody's guess, as well.

If your cousins are in agreement with your plan, then you can buy out their interests. You might or might not get credit for the money that you have "invested" in the land. Your mother's payments may or may not matter. SOME of your cousins would probably be fine with you just HAVING the property. Some, clearly, are not interested in that. There is no way for you to handle this without dealing with them, unless you continue to do what you (and the rest of your family) has always done with this land, which is nothing. Again, that is fine, until someone comes along and objects, at which point, you could have HUGE problems, fast.

Whether that will happen in your case, you are in a far better position to judge than I am. If it were me, I would want to get this settled. I do not know if that is possible, under your facts. You will not be able to do this without a probate attorney, however.

Best of luck to you!

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more
Steven J. Fromm

Steven J. Fromm

Probate Attorney - Philadelphia, PA
Answered

Do not do a thing until you get the legalities resolved. This is an accident waiting to happen and it has already happended to you. You need to get estate counsel to resolve this mess and ultimately have a partition action brought to bring this to a head. If you do what you contemplate doing you may be throwing away resources. By the way any real estate taxes you pay may not be deductible on your tax return if you are not the legal owner.

Hope this helps.

Please remember to designate a best answer to your question.

Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336, his email address is sjfpc@comcast.net , for more tax, estate and business articles visit his website www.sjfpc.com. and blog

LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia... more
Timothy Edward Kalamaros

Timothy Edward Kalamaros

Probate Attorney - Mishawaka, IN
Answered

In addition to what the others said make sure your lawyers knows estates and also how to handle a "quiet title" action. That may be in the cards. Be sure and mention how you all have paid the taxes.

No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in... more

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