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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    Post Neighbor Obtained Title Ownershio of Property Due to Years of Use

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Georgia. My late husband developed small sub-division around a small lake with four properties abutting the lake. The lake was in my husband's name and one neighbor wanted to stock and fertilizer the lake. He was given permission in 1983 to do so. Some time later he convinced my husband to deed half the lake (less than an acre) to him; no money changed hands, half the lake was put in his name. At some point the neighbor had the tax bill sent to his address and he paid the small tax bills. We had moved and forgot about the lake property until I probated the will. My husband died in 2014 of Alzheimer's, leaving all to me, and I have discovered the lake is in the neighbor's name with no mention of my husband's name as half owner.
    In view of time elapsed ( we fished the lake on a few occasions since we still lived only a few miles away) was there a requirement we be advised in any change of ownership. No permission was granted to the other party to assume ownership or to divert tax bills to his address. I assume he diverted them; we did not receive them in all those years.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,734

    Default Re: Neighbor Taking Ownership of Property Due to Years of Use; Getting Title in His N

    There is no requirement you be given notice of a change of ownership as it generally requires an owner to execute a deed to effect the transfer.

    Land is not "in the name of" anybody. You research the chain of title by reviewing the deeds and any other actions regarding the title and through that, determine who owns the property. The tax bill being in a person's name does not give or prove ownership. So, how did you conclude title was in the guys name? Did you research the chain of title through the deeds?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    6,450

    Default Re: Neighbor Taking Ownership of Property Due to Years of Use; Getting Title in His N

    Quote Quoting 11jcahill
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    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Georgia. My late husband developed small sub-division around a small lake with four properties abutting the lake. The lake was in my husband's name and one neighbor wanted to stock and fertilizer the lake. He was given permission in 1983 to do so. Some time later he convinced my husband to deed half the lake (less than an acre) to him; no money changed hands, half the lake was put in his name. At some point the neighbor had the tax bill sent to his address and he paid the small tax bills. We had moved and forgot about the lake property until I probated the will. My husband died in 2014 of Alzheimer's, leaving all to me, and I have discovered the lake is in the neighbor's name with no mention of my husband's name as half owner.
    In view of time elapsed ( we fished the lake on a few occasions since we still lived only a few miles away) was there a requirement we be advised in any change of ownership. No permission was granted to the other party to assume ownership or to divert tax bills to his address. I assume he diverted them; we did not receive them in all those years.
    The permission that was given in 1983 to stock the lake has no effect on how the neighbor may have acquired the lake because permission can be revoked at any time and so does not effect any claim to an adverse possession. The some time later, when your husband deeded half the lake to the neighbor, also has no effect on any claim for adverse possession. So the question is how did he acquire (if he did) the other half of the lake.

    There are only two ways that could have happened. One would be that your husband, at some point, deeded it to him unbeknownst to you or he (the neighbor) would have made a claim for adverse possession at a time when he met the requirements. In Georgia, that would be 20 years of possession, (7 years with color of title) and the payment of taxes on the claimed land. The later would require the neighbor suing your husband in court to quiet title and to prevail. In such a case, your husband would have or should have been served with the complaint. If your husband received such a complaint and did not respond, a default judgment could have be entered and you may not have any knowledge of it.

    As JK points out, you need to search all the deeds to find out how this may have happened. You can also go to your jurisdiction's tax office and find out when and how the name on the tax bill changed. The neighbor would have had to be paying taxes on the half of the lake your husband deeded to him. But the question is when did your half of the taxes start being paid by the neighbor. The tax records will show who the owner of the land is and what it is assessed for. Who the tax bill is sent to has nothing to do with ownership. And I wouldn't put it past the tax office to have made a mistake in recording the half lake deed as the entire lake. You can also search the court records to see if there was a suit filed and if so, what happened.

    Is half the lake assessed for such that this is worth hiring an attorney to take action?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Neighbor Taking Ownership of Property Due to Years of Use; Getting Title in His N

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    There are only two ways that could have happened. One would be that your husband, at some point, deeded it to him unbeknownst to you or he (the neighbor) would have made a claim for adverse possession at a time when he met the requirements.
    You mention a third possibility, mistake. There is a fourth possibility -- transfer through a fraudulent deed.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    2

    Default Re: Neighbor Taking Ownership of Property Due to Years of Use; Getting Title in His N

    I thank all of you for your information and suggestions.
    We discovered the neighbor's name only when we went to the courthouse to determine the status of the lake since we realized we received no tax bill for a long time. Does it matter we continued to use the lake for fishing on a few occasions? We never gave permission for the neighbor to change anything relative to address or name on title.
    We don't know the value of the lake and it may or may not be more than the cost of hiring a lawyer.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2005
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    98,846

    Default Re: Neighbor Taking Ownership of Property Due to Years of Use; Getting Title in His N

    Unless and until you tell us when and how your neighbor gained title, all we can do is suggest that you consult a lawyer.

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