Deceased owner. No mortgage. No heirs. Any options?

14 Replies

I came across a property in Orange County, CA where the owner passed away last year. Property is not under a trust. Neighbor told me he was from Europe with no family here. I did a peoplefinders search and did not find any family members. There is no mortgage on it.  Is there any way to acquire this property?   I came across a mention that i can run a genealogy report and take that to the court and purchase it from the county.  However, I'm not sure if that's something that can be done in California.   

I think each state has what I would describe as a "routing" process for assets not in a Trust. For example: children->spouse->siblings, etc. If the state can't find someone to give the property to, it will go to public auction. I would imagine you'd be able to find the exact routing process online or you may need to give the state/county a call to clear that up. Then you can run a genealogy report based on who is relevant, approach with sensitivity. I don't think you'd be able to buy the property straight from the county before it hits auction...

I would speak to a local attorney. 

Maybe start mowing grass then put a lien against property and foreclose? ask attorney.

Google "Adverse Possession" for California and see what law is for your state.

Buy it at Delinquent Tax Sale auction?

@Ivan Vargas I think this is a scam.  I have had several people reach out to me with the exact same story.  The only way to do this is via Probate.  You will need to find the heirs and the story goes on that the "son" wants nothing to do with his fathers property.

Good Investing...

Originally posted by @Joe Homs :

@Ivan Vargas I think this is a scam.  I have had several people reach out to me with the exact same story.  The only way to do this is via Probate.  You will need to find the heirs and the story goes on that the "son" wants nothing to do with his fathers property.

Good Investing...


I wonder if it's the same property.  I was told by the neighbor that the man had no family here.  I did research and it looks like there is no mortgage on it. I did a people search/background report and it did not find any family members. The 1st phone number is disconnected.  The next two are wrong numbers. I was told by someone I can go the route of Adverse Possession.  I'll have to look into that further. 

 

@Ivan Vargas Wow all these old terms coming back up in todays market.  Adverse Possession is a five year process where you would move into the property and pay the property taxes.  It also has to be with the knowledge of the owner (who is dead?)  The neighbors might call the Police first if they see you breaking in?  I would not risk the cash outlay and possible jailtime for a deal.  Find something else and move on is my suggestion.

Good Luck...

How do you know they don't have heirs?   Possible, but not probable.   No brothers, sisters, cousins?  Probably someone out there that has an interest, even if they don't know about it or maybe care about it.   You need to find them.   Online websites probably are not going to find heirs in another country for you.   Probably have to do more research.

@Ivan Vargas

Vacant and apparently abandoned real estate are problem properties which can be very profitable.  The real estate of a deceased person typically goes through probate. https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/p...   But there are other ways to acquire it, as mentioned by @John Underwood . (Purchase a lien [or put a lien on the property] and foreclose the lien to get the property sold at foreclosure auction -where you can make your lien part of your bid; or simply take over the property and use it as your own [adverse possession] https://www.biggerpockets.com/...; or wait for the local county to sell it for past due property taxes and bit on it at the property tax foreclosure sale.)

Generally, to acquire the property of a deceased person, start by checking whether the deceased had a will?  If he/she did, than the will would be expected to control disposition of the estate.  If there is no know will, then move on to a review of your State's laws controlling Intestate Succession (State law determining who has legal right to the deceased's property). https://leginfo.legislature.ca...     

If you do not need a clear title within a short time frame (year or two). Then your broader time frame for acquiring clear title, also broadens the methods available to acquire ownership.

You can obtain any partial legal interest (purchase the partial interest of any heir), or acquire an equitable interest in the property (a legally recognized financial interest in the property like a lien) and put the property through probate yourself as a partial interest holder.

If the property is vacant and rentable, after obtaining partial ownership from any sibling, you can simply rent out the entire property. It is possible to become partial owner, in complete possession/control of the property and to be in control of the rents. It is possible to partner with some or all of the remaining heir(s). Heirs can continue to rent the property with out ever resolving title.

You can purchase the interest of any person or entity that has an existing lien on the property. In limited circumstances you can place your own lien on the property.  Once you have a lien, most states will allow you to protect and/or increase your lien by taking the steps necessary and prudent to secure and maintain the property.  You can also foreclose a lien in order to force the property to be sold at public auction for repayment of your lien.

As a partial owner who is in possession, or as a lien holder who merely assumes possession, you can use the property as your own -to the exclusion of any remaining heirs. If they don't take legal action to protect their interest, then after 5 years (in California), the Statute of Adverse Possession grants you a defense to any future claims by the remaining heirs.  You then have the right to ask a court to grant you clear title.  https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/c...

There are many ways to deal with problem properties and many ways to profit -if you are a problem solver. Best wishes.

Originally posted by @Ivan Vargas :

I came across a property in Orange County, CA where the owner passed away last year. Property is not under a trust. Neighbor told me he was from Europe with no family here. I did a peoplefinders search and did not find any family members. There is no mortgage on it.  Is there any way to acquire this property?   I came across a mention that i can run a genealogy report and take that to the court and purchase it from the county.  However, I'm not sure if that's something that can be done in California.   

 Assuming there are no heirs or creditors, the first problem the property will run into is keeping up with the lawn (if that is an issue for this property in CA, I have no idea.) If it does, the municipality will warn them then do the work and lien the property. As long as the house is in good shape it wont be risk of being condemned and demolished.

So, I think the property taxes not being paid will likely be the first trigger to get the property back in commerce. I don't know how California works, but after a certain period of time that the property taxes are not paid, the ownership of the house will eventually transfer to someone who acquired it through the property tax sale. 

Originally posted by @Joe Homs :

@Ivan Vargas Wow all these old terms coming back up in todays market.  Adverse Possession is a five year process where you would move into the property and pay the property taxes.  It also has to be with the knowledge of the owner (who is dead?)  The neighbors might call the Police first if they see you breaking in?  I would not risk the cash outlay and possible jailtime for a deal.  Find something else and move on is my suggestion.

Good Luck...

Good luck in that scenario getting the power turned on too.

 

You:  Your honor, I am requesting that an intestate probate case be opened and that I be appointed as the Administrator of the estate.

Judge:   And who are you as it relates to the decedent?

You:    I am a lienholder.

Judge:   And what are the circumstances of your becoming a lienholder?

You:    I mowed the lawn to the house owned by the decedent and I have not been paid.

Judge:   And did you enter into an agreement with the decedent to mow his lawn, either verbal or in writing?

You:      No your honor, the decedent was dead when I started mowing the lawn.

Judge:   Then why did you begin to mow the law if no one agreed to pay you money for mowing the lawn?

Let's stop there.   

Can someone tell me how you would respond to the Judge's last question?

From an attorneys website

If a deceased person dies intestate and has no parents, children, spouse or siblings, the inheritance rights will pass to any nieces or nephews that are living. If this is not successful, the inheritance will pass to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and more distant relatives. If an attempt to find a surviving relative is unsuccessful, the probate estate will escheat to the State of California.

Originally posted by @Chris Seveney :

From an attorneys website

If a deceased person dies intestate and has no parents, children, spouse or siblings, the inheritance rights will pass to any nieces or nephews that are living. If this is not successful, the inheritance will pass to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and more distant relatives. If an attempt to find a surviving relative is unsuccessful, the probate estate will escheat to the State of California.

 That is correct, escheat. I bet every state is like that, no heirs, it goes to the state. IMO this person's best option is to try to get the property at tax sale. It won't be redeemed so they will end up being able to quiet title.

@Ivan Vargas

       "I came across a mention that i can run a genealogy report and take that to the court and purchase it from the county."

I doubt it is nearly that simple but it does have a slim basis of truth.  If a property owner has no heirs then at death it "escheats" to the state. It other words the the state takes ownership. How that process works would vary by state law. Then once the state owns it, it can choose to sell it. My guess is usually by public auction. Or they may order an appraisal and expect you to pay market or close to market value. This also is probably determined by state law. 

While it is possible that the process you suggest may work in some states I doubt it. One significant problem would be that you said he is from Europe with no heirs here.  If he has Heirs in Europe they would be the rightful owners and that is going to be hard to research/prove.

This is a rare and technical part of the law so you aren't likely going to find a specific answer here on a forum. I would search the term Escheat in CA and maybe see if you can find specific state statues. Ultimately you are probably going to need an attorney's help. 

  • My guess is the escheat route won't go anywhere.  But you will learn a lot in the process.   
  • My next guess is the best way for you to acquire it is through adverse possession.  Although I don't think that is going to be very practical either. 
  • My last guess is the most likely end result is it will sell in tax sale at auction.  When that happens you will have competition and there will be no bargain to be had.
Originally posted by @Ivan Vargas :

I came across a property in Orange County, CA where the owner passed away last year. Property is not under a trust. Neighbor told me he was from Europe with no family here. I did a peoplefinders search and did not find any family members. There is no mortgage on it.  Is there any way to acquire this property?   I came across a mention that i can run a genealogy report and take that to the court and purchase it from the county.  However, I'm not sure if that's something that can be done in California.   


Whomever is the PR (Personal Representative) of the estate, Notice of Petition, Order of Probate and Letters of Administration would have to be filed by the PR for you to legally purchase the subject property.  

The PR would have to publish, as well, Notice of Petition to Administer Estate in the local adjudicated newspaper to notify creditors (if any)..