Stolen House (Maybe)

Long story short (And I am not asking for legal advice. Only asking to see if people think this is worth my time to look into.)

In the 50’s an elderly relative of my grandmother promised to leave his house to her when he died. He showed her the will and the paperwork. It was all set that the house was hers. He died, and another relative got to the house first. Next thing, it seems the house was actually left to this other relative, much to every ones surprise. My grandmother didn’t have the resources to look into it, and let it go.

Today in a Sheriff’s Sale paper my aunt found the property next to this house is up for auction. In reading the write-up about it, it mentions the properties next to it. My grandmother’s name is listed as the owner of the next door property. Does this mean my grandmother’s name is on the deed? Is it possible her estate still actually owns the house? Can we reclaim it?

Can I go to the courthouse and look up the deed?
Thanks. (And again, I am not asking for legal advice.)

I would consider going to the registry of deeds and search the title. Assuming the title search shows that your grandmother is the real owner, the next question is whether it’s too late to do anything about it. Basically there’s a concept of “adverse possession,” which means that if the Other Relative (or his successors) have been living their long enough and have satisfied other requirements, grandma is outta luck.

Even if the papers giving the house to grandmother have not been recorded, she may still have a shot. So it’s worth looking through the probate file too.

Anyway, this is a situation where grandma really should talk to a lawyer before she actually does anything, because the rules of adverse possession can be a bit tricky and counterintuitive.

Also, I thought I put it in the OP, but I forgot to write it. My grandmother has already passed away. So it would not be her gettign the house anyway, but my mom and here sisters and brother. If that makes any difference.

Too late to edit the OP to add it though.

The rules governing adverse possession vary pretty heavily depending on where you live. As a general rule, the disseisor (ie., the relative who originally yoinked the house) would have to act in bad faith to negate the adverse possession right- meaning if they knew that the house was grandma’s because they’d seen the deed or will, they wouldn’t have a right to the house.

If relative #1 has also passed on and his/her issue now live in the house, they are probably there in good faith (ie., genuinely believing they own the house) which would complicate things still further, since they now have a separate and independent adverse possession of the land.

It would also likely make a big difference if grandma did something about it- had an initial consultation with an attorney, for example- rather than literally nothing.

You should be able to go on line with the county tax assessor and look up the land. It will tell who is the registered owner and what tyoe of deed it is held in.

I agree with **Brazil **and others. Many deed offices are online now; check it out to see who the owner of record is. There are also tax records online; see who, if anyone, has been paying the taxes. If it looks interesting, get a title search done. Then, if you like, go talk to a lawyer about a suit to claim the property and to quiet title, which will decide once and for all who owns the property (which may also depend on your grandmother’s will). This course of action, however, will cost you legal fees, but if you’re likely to get a (portion of a) house, it might be worth your while. Good luck.