If a property owner dies and there are no family members, etc, how would you go about purchasing the property?

I recently found and abandoned property that I would love to purchase. The owner passed away 3 years ago. I researched the property and the owner had no living relatives, no Will and there is no mortgage or liens on the property. The property is assesed at 130k, all the owners personal property is there. The property is behind 3 years on taxes but not been foreclosed on yet for taxes. Is there anyway to either purchase this property or obtain ownership in another way such as adverse possesion, paying taxes ect. Are there any legal forms we can file/obtain to make this more legal than just squating ?

Asked on July 14, 2012 under Estate Planning, New York


Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Based upon the facts you've provided, before real property owned by the deceased can be sold & title transferred, a petition must be filed in NY Surrogate's Court, in the county where the decedent was a resident at the time of his death, asking the Court to  appoint an administrator of the estate. The Court reviews the petition & then issues letters of administration, which gives the administrator the legal powers necessary to administer & settle the decedent's estate. 

Since you've indicated that there are no living relatives, the public administrator or the chief fiscal officer in that county has the legal authority to petition the Court for a decree granting letters of administration to either the public administrator or the chief fiscal officer (depending upon whether there is a public administrator in that NY county).

Once letters of administration are issued by the Court, the administrator of the estate, under EPTL § 11-1.1, is empowered to sell any property of the estate "...at public or private sale, and on such terms as in the opinion of the fiduciary will be most advantageous to those interested therein."

It would be up to the administrator to decide whether to sell the estate's real property publicly or privately. Of course a public sale would involve a bidding process, whereas a private sale would involve negotiating the purchase price and terms and signing a contract of sale with the administrator of the estate. The transfer of title would be completed by delivery of an administrator's deed to the purchaser. Good luck!  

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