Can I use adverse possession for a church?

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Can I use adverse possession for a church?

Title in the name of Church but all trustee board members deceased. Can I take possession of the property?

Asked on May 11, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Missouri


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 14 years ago | Contributor

Adverse possession has many requirements. 

1. Open and notorious: i.e. viewable by owner

2. Continuous use: Missouri is 10 years

3. Actual use: like similar land use in area

4. Exclusive Use: no one else allowed on land

5. Hostile Use: without owner's permission

Here are the statutory considerations:


Statute not to extend to certain lands.

516.090. Nothing contained in any statute of limitation shall extend to any lands given, granted, sequestered, or appropriated to any public, pious, or charitable use, or to any lands belonging to this state. This section shall be construed to prohibit any judgment granting adverse possession to a claimant where the defendant possesses an interest in land described in a recorded deed and is a public utility as defined in section 386.020, RSMo, or is a rural electric cooperative as defined in chapter 394, RSMo, or is an organization operating under section 394.200, RSMo.

(RSMo 1939 § 1011, A.L. 2006 S.B. 1045, A.L. 2007 S.B. 416)

Prior revisions: 1929 § 859; 1919 § 1314; 1909 § 1886

(2004) Section does not preclude school district from asserting limitation period in section 516.010 as defense to quiet title action in land previously used for a school. Basye v. Fayette R-III School District Board of Education, 150 S.W.3d 111 (Mo.App. W.D.).



Suit to perfect title by limitation--proceedings.

527.180. In all cases when, under the provisions of section 516.070, RSMo, the title or claim of any person out of possession of any real estate shall be barred by limitation, and the title thereto has vested in the party in possession, or the party under whom he claims, under the provisions of said section, the party holding the title which has vested by limitation under the provisions of said section may bring his action in the circuit court of the county in which the real estate is situated, to have his record title thereto perfected, and it shall be sufficient for him to state in his petition that he holds the title to such real estate, and that the same has vested in him or those under whom he claims, by limitation under the provisions of said section, and in such action it shall not be necessary to make any person a party defendant except such persons as may appear to have of record a claim or title adverse to that of plaintiff, and upon the trial of such cause, proof of the facts, showing title in plaintiff by limitation by reason of the provisions of said section, shall entitle him to a decree of the court declaring his title by limitation under the provisions of said section, and a copy of such decree may be entered of record in the office of the recorder of deeds for said county, and in any such action service of process may be had as provided in chapter 506, RSMo, in causes affecting real estate, and if in any case the person whose adverse claim appears of record shall be dead, then the heirs or devisees of such person, or those claiming by, through or under him or them, if known, shall be made defendants, as adverse claimants, and if they be unknown to plaintiff, then he shall allege in his petition, under oath, that there are, or that he verily believes there are, persons interested in the subject matter of the petition as heirs or devisees of deceased, or as claiming by, through or under him or them, whose names he cannot insert therein because they are unknown to him, and shall describe the interest of such person, and how derived, so far as his knowledge extends, and service of process on such unknown person shall be had as in said chapter 506, RSMo, is provided in case of unknown parties, and when such service shall be had, judgment and decree shall be rendered the same as though personal service had been had.



SO, according to Missouri Revised Statute 516.090 above, it apparently doesn't apply to lands appropriated for pious use.  It is a distinct possibility adverse possession doesn't apply to churches.  To be sure, and if you met all of the criteria above (open and notorious all the way to hostil use), consult with a local attorney in your state to determine if there are exception to Missouri Revised Statute 516.090.  Try to locate such attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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