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?
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!
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
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 email@example.com , 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 and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org , his website is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is <http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.
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 Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.