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How can I obtain legal ownership of the property I live at and what to do about the back taxes that were already owed.

This legal question related to Real estate attorneys in San BernardinoCalifornia has been answered.

Location: San Bernardino  |  Law type: Real estate attorneys

The owners (husband and wife) are both deceased but still listed as the present owners of the property I live at.Ive been living there over a year now and I have the electric turned on in my name and would like to get the water as well except only the owner can turn it on.i have done extensive clean up both inside and out.Upon moving there the property was already delinquent as far as the property taxes are concerned.The last payment was in 2020 and none had been made since the owner past away.I have been paying the current tax bills but do not have all the funds to redeem the property.i tried to set up a payment plan with the county but they wanted $1750 a month which I can't afford.They gave me a number of a CA mortgage assistance company that also helps with tax assistance and they told me they pay up to 80,000 in back taxes but I can't fill out the paperwork bc I am not the homeowner!? I am not sure what to do at this point and I am trying to prevent the state from taking over since the five year deadline is approaching soon.I would greatly appreciate any advice on this matter and I'm willing to pay if necessary to get my questions answered and know how to legally proceed the correct way.Thank you very much!!!

Commonly posted questions...

2 months ago, Real estate attorneys, Alabama

Legal Solution

The response provided below is specific to Real estate attorneys in the jurisdiction of San Bernardino. If the response is inadequate, please submit a detailed inquiry.

Navigating the complexities of acquiring legal ownership of a property under the circumstances described, especially in San Bernardino, involves addressing several key legal and financial challenges. These include dealing with back taxes, establishing ownership rights, and potentially navigating probate or adverse possession laws. Given the property's current status—owned by deceased individuals, with back taxes owing and you making improvements and payments—it's crucial to approach this situation with a clear understanding of the applicable legal frameworks and processes.

Legal Framework

For specific legal statutes and regulations relevant to this situation in San Bernardino, it's essential to consult:

  • California Probate Code: Governs estate affairs and might offer pathways to claim ownership if you can be considered an heir or have a claim against the estate.
  • California Revenue and Taxation Code: Contains provisions on property taxes, delinquencies, and redemption.
  • California Civil Code regarding Adverse Possession: Provides a legal basis under specific conditions for gaining ownership of a property by occupying it.

For accurate and detailed information, visiting the California Legislative Information website is recommended. This site offers access to all state statutes, including those relevant to probate, taxation, and property laws.

Potential Solutions

Addressing your situation involves a multi-faceted approach:

  1. Probate Process: If the owners died without a will (intestate), the property would typically pass to their heirs through probate. You should consult with a probate lawyer in San Bernardino to determine if you can establish a claim through this process, possibly as a creditor or through some other legal relationship to the deceased owners.

  2. Adverse Possession: This is a long shot and requires you to meet specific criteria, including open, notorious, continuous, and hostile possession of the property for a period defined by state law, typically 5 years in California, along with paying property taxes. This is a complex legal pathway and requires guidance from a knowledgeable real estate attorney.

  3. Payment of Back Taxes: Since you've started paying the current tax bills but can't afford the back taxes, negotiating a more manageable payment plan with the county might be necessary. Legal assistance can be crucial in these negotiations.

  4. Legal Ownership and Water Utility: Establishing legal ownership is essential for services like water. This might be resolved through the probate process or adverse possession claim but requires legal support.

For detailed assistance, you may want to ask a free legal question or find the right lawyer who specializes in estate, probate, or real estate law within San Bernardino.

Pricing Table and Considerations

Service Offered by Lawyers Average Price in San Bernardino (USD) % Difference from National Average
Consultation with Real Estate Attorney 350 +10%
Filing Probate Claim 2,500 - 5,000 +15%
Adverse Possession Claim Process 7,500 - 15,000 +20%
Negotiating Payment Plan for Back Taxes 1,000 - 2,500 +5%

San Bernardino might have higher legal service costs due to the complexity of real estate and probate cases in California, the high demand for such services, and the specific legal expertise required.

Complexity of Cases

The complexity arises from the convergence of probate law, real estate law, and tax law. Here are three case studies illustrating possible resolutions:

  1. Probate Claim: An individual successfully claims the property as an heir or creditor through probate, navigating the legal system with the help of a probate lawyer.

  2. Adverse Possession: After meeting all legal criteria over the requisite period and with legal assistance, an individual successfully claims ownership through adverse possession.

  3. Negotiating Back Taxes: With legal assistance, an individual negotiates a manageable payment plan for the back taxes, preventing the property from being seized by the state.

Relevant Questions for the User

  1. Were the previous owners related to you, and if so, how? - Understanding your potential status as an heir could impact the probate process.

  2. Have you documented your improvements and tax payments? - This documentation could support claims of adverse possession or interest in the property.

  3. What is the total amount of back taxes owed? - Knowing the amount can help assess the feasibility of payment plans or assistance programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How can I claim ownership of a property through adverse possession in San Bernardino?

To claim ownership through adverse possession in San Bernardino, you must occupy the property openly, notoriously, continuously, and hostilely for five years, pay all property taxes during that period, and meet other specific legal criteria. It is highly advised to consult with a real estate attorney to navigate this complex process.

Q2: Can I negotiate a lower payment plan for back taxes owed on a property?

Yes, it is possible to negotiate a lower payment plan for back taxes with the county. However, success often requires presenting a compelling case, including your financial situation and intentions for the property. Legal representation may improve your chances of securing a favorable arrangement.

Q3: What happens if I pay the property taxes but am not the legal owner?

Paying property taxes when you are not the legal owner does not automatically grant you ownership rights. However, it can be a component of an adverse possession claim or demonstrate your investment in the property, which might be relevant in legal proceedings or negotiations.

Q4: How does the probate process work in San Bernardino if the property owners died without a will?

If property owners in San Bernardino die without a will, their estate goes through probate, where a court oversees the distribution of assets according to California's intestacy laws. Potential heirs or creditors can make claims on the estate during this process, but legal guidance is crucial.

Q5: What legal assistance programs are available in San Bernardino for individuals facing property and tax issues?

Individuals facing property and tax issues in San Bernardino may find assistance through local legal aid organizations, the California Bar Association's referral services, or programs offering support for low-income residents. These resources can provide legal advice, representation, or help in negotiating with tax authorities.


This content is for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It's always recommended to consult with a local attorney about your specific situation.

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