Now that the owner has died, what right do we have to land that we have taken care of for several years?

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Now that the owner has died, what right do we have to land that we have taken care of for several years?

We moved to a new property in 2004. It is 15 acres and the family also owned the 15 acres next to ours. We were verbally told we could use this property for our livestock if we repaired/replaced any fence that was needed and any normal upkeep this property needed. We have removed all the stumps that were still on this land, sprayed for weeds, fertilized and planted winter grass, mowed and repaired and put up new fencing. Now that the landowner has died and has no children, we need advice of what we may need to do to claim this property if possible. In TX.

Asked on March 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, taking care of land does NOT give one any legal claim to it. It would be different if the agreement with the landowner had been that you were "buying' the land by pyaing expenses and taking care of it; however, without an agreement to that effect, what you did does not create an interest.

You can't even attempt to claim the land by "adverse possession," since adverse possession, by it's very definition, must be "adverse" to the landowner's intersts--that is, without his permission or approval. Where, as here, the landowner gave you permission to use the land, it is  not adverse and will not support adverse possession.

In short, for doing the work you did, you were able to use the land for 6 or 7 years; that is the value you got out of it. You do not, based on what you write, have any rights in or to the land, but may be able to negotiate something with whomever (presumably an ex-wife, sibling, uncle, aunt, neice, nephew, cousin, etc.) ends up owing it.


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