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Senior Partner
Senior Partner, Solicitor
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Experience:  Solicitor with more than 30 years experience
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Re: Purchasing Land (in UK ) the title to which is last identifiable

Resolved Question:

Re: Purchasing Land (in UK ) the title to which is last identifiable in 1880. -
There is a parcel of land close to a property of mine where the owner has been invisible for living memory.
I have put in from time to time over the past 20 years significant effort to try to identify the true 'paper'owner and now have had what I believe to be some success in discovering that this land was conveyed in 1880 to a local family of some standing in Victorian times who held an impressive Estate ie they had extensive land holdings where this parcel was relatively small and looks as if it was forgotten in
dispositions since 1880.
Assuming that I can unearth the actual Conveyance of 1880 - or official documents like 'examined abstracts' sufficient to prove to some extent a sound root of title, is there any machinery by which I can acquire that title by purchase now ?
Additional Information :-
(1) Assume I can show who the Executors of the 1880 owner were - but both of course died in the early 20th C . I have a copy of the 1880 owners Will for which Probate was granted in 1906 All his estate was left to his niece.
(2) The niece died in 1926. However, before then in 1923 she sold the family Estate in dubious conditions giving rise to doubts about her full competence - relevant only to explain why it was probably easy to overlook this relatively small parcel of land which had been acquired by her family in 1880.
I have a copy of the Probate of 1927 and the attached Will of the niece dated October 1922 with 2 Executors - one a local Solicitor and the other a local surgeon. The relevant residue all left to her 5 children in equal shares.
(3) I have a failry good trace of the descendants of 3 of these 5 early 20thC 'children' whose own grandchildren are now in their 60's etc. I could probably locate the descendants of the other 2 early 20thC children.
The question is who, if anyone, would have the power to convey to me by a purchase agreement the land in question assuming that I was able to locate the actual 1880 Conveyance or a serviceable Abstract of it ? Should I be attempting to trace the descendants of the Executors of the 1922 Will rather than the descendants of the niece who were left the land in question ?
I should add that the land has not lent itself because of topographical reasons to acquisition by adverse possession for the last 80 years or so by anyone ( including me ) but is now likely to come under threat from travellers etc unless the situation is addressed formally somehow.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Clare replied 1 year ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
For clarity - there is no question of the parcel of land being sold with the rest of the Estate in 1923?
Clare
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello Clare

Thank you for the prompt acknowledgement. I have been out for the day only returning mid evening.

I am 95% sure that the parcel of land in question was not sold with the rest of the Estate in 1923. Certainly for the purposes of the advice I need now it can be assumed that it was not.

However, one point before you proceed please -

When I posed my question this morning it was on the basis that one of your Expert colleagues under the name of 'Senior Partner' was to field the question and respond.

I have had advice from him or her in the past and know that he or she is a specialist within the Probate field with substantial professional practising experience behind them.

I am conscious that my question is an unusual one and I think will rely upon significant experience within that field to a greater extent than usual.

I can see that you have an impressive track record in the provision of advice in your capacity as a Just Answer Expert but across a huge width of the spectrum of the many different areas of legal work.

However, I have doubt as to whether anyone - however talented - covering pretty well all non contentious fields as well as contentious fields (both civil and criminal) could provide me with advice which advances my understanding of the position at this stage.

I had assumed that 'Senior Partner' would be dealing with this as the banner on my Just Answer Page indicated.

With sincere respect for your obvious professional ability generally, unless you are confident that you will be able to provide authoritative advice on this ( non mainstream ) topic I would prefer that my question be referred to your moderator to check why 'Senior Partner' is not dealing with it as Just Answer's web page indicated when I elected to ask the question.

Many thanks

Stuart

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello Clare

What has happened please ?

I have not received any reply to my response to you of 2nd March @ 18.53.

Regards

Stuart

Expert:  Clare replied 1 year ago.
Hi
My apologies - I was trying to find out when my colleague will be online for you - I will let you know when I find out!
Clare
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello Clare

Thanks for the message - my last one to you was prompted by an e mail from Just Answer asking for me to give feedback as if the whole thing was done and dusted so I began to wonder if you had replied and it was in cyberspace.

I'll wait for the outcome of your enquiries.

Regards

Stuart

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 1 year ago.
Hi Stuart. I am afraid I am not online much at the moment but I got a message that you had specifically asked for. I did see your original question but I had not responded as I did not frankly think I had anything constructive to say.
Your issue does not seem to be a legal one but a practical one. You have clearly done a lot of work to try and identify the owner of the land. As you obviously realise there is no mechanism outside of compulsory purchase by a public body whereby land can be acquired unles there is an agreement with the owner.
Either this land has been covered by a will or it has not. If title was transferred over the years then if you can identify who the beneficial owner is then you can buy from them but you will need to find an heir who is interested in cooperating. Your research Mayo potentially have identified heirs but to be certain it would be necessary to trace title through the various wills and so on, If for some reason the land was not passed through a will but passed on intestate the. It might have passed bona vacantia back to the crown - all property that remains unclaimed eventually passes to the crown.
My own view is your best bet if it is proving so difficult to prove title would be to fence it off and claim adverse possession. You say that is not possible but there must be some way of entering into possession . If it is possible for travellers to occupy then it must be possible for others to do so.
You could try speaking to the treasury solicitors bona vacantia department and see they might be interested - if the land has formed part of an unclaimed estate you may be able to buy from them.
I do not really have any other suggestions for you other tha the write to the people you have identified as possible being heirs and ask them but it is impossible to speculate as to whether it is possible establish title.
To comment further I would need to see any actual wills etc. it is possible that the niece sold or transferred the land or that it was passed on by one of her heirs
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Senior Partner

Thanks for your overview on this. I needed to know that I was not overlooking any avenue which might have been more simple.

One point though if I may on which your experience in this field is important -

Assuming my enquiries/research confirm that :-

(1) title to the land in question was duly transferred by the Executors of the 1880 owner after his death in 1906 to the niece in accordance with his Will under the terms and

(2) it was not sold or otherwise disposed of by the niece during her lifetime and

(3) it was not sold or otherwise disposed of by the niece's Executors after her death in 1926

then who has the power to sell it to me now ? Some variety of the descendants of the niece's Executors or the descendants of those beneficially entitled under the terms of the nieces Will ?

If the latter can I obtain good title from anything less than 100% of those 'beneficially entiled descendants' ie if I could trace and persuade only say 75% of those descendants to participate in a sale to me would any purported sale to me fail technically ?

As far the former are concerned what happens in situations such as the one here where there is a valid Will appointing 2 Executors but they both die before disposing of all the Estate properly ? Surely there is some mechanism to have some appropriate person(s) appointed to exercise official powers fully to dispose of the deceased Estate according to the terms of the valid Will ?

I'd be grateful for your final bit of steerage on the above

Stuart

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 1 year ago.
Hi . If the niece acquired title through the will - and beneficial onwership at least will have transferrred even if the executors failed to transfer legal title - then it will have passed to her heirs. So if she left her estate to one or more heirs title would have passed to them.The heirs to the executors have no interest in the land.

Generally land that is left to multiple beneficiaries is left on trust for sale i.e. to be sold and the proceeds divided but to get good title you are probably going to have to identify all the beneficiaires. If you can identify some and they can be persuaded to seek to become registerd as owners and sell as trustees for themselves and the unidentified beneficiares you may get title - to some extent it is up to the land registry to decide when you seek to register whether title is established.

If the trustees of the niece will never transferred it and have died than I think from a legal perspective you really need to get all the beneficiaires.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello Senior Partner

Thanks for that. I'll contnue my research with your comments in mind.

Very helpful.

Regards

Stuart

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 1 year ago.
Good luck with your research. I forgot to mention that where the executors have died but the estate has not been concluded, the court can appoint a new executor who could be a professional or someone nominated by the beneficiaries.
Senior Partner, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 13325
Experience: Solicitor with more than 30 years experience
Senior Partner and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Senior Partner

Thanks for the addendum to complete matters.

I'll now do the formalities with Just Answer. Hope you don't decide you've had enough of us all just yet since I'll have more questions on this one in another year or 18 months I'm sure

Much obliged

Stuart

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