School property clause- reverts to original owner help!
- From: mjoann <xtcmusicfan@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2005 08:45:47 GMT
I have just discovered a serious theft from my family... property worth around a million dollars. Quick background: My grandmother's father "John" came from a wealthy family and had inherited land that was in the family for 200 years. John married young, fathered my grandmother and died when my grandmother was less than 2 years old. My grandmother was then the sole heir, with an uncle and her mother as trustees until she turned 21. The uncle was corrupt and never returned her property when she hit 21, and her mother was a naive young widow from another state. Because John's family was prominent, they basically "took care" of everything and my great-grandmother never knew what hit her.
Part of John's estate was "taken for school purposes," which we did know about. There is a sign in front of the school thanking my ancestor. I always thought that was strange, considering most imminent domain properties don't acknowledge the previous owners! It turns out it was there for a reason. What we didn't know because the corrupt relatives handled everything: the property had a clause stating that if the school was ever closed, it reverted to the heirs of the estate. I found out by pure luck when I randomly mentioned the school and told our realtor that it was my ancestor. It turns out our realtor is on the school board, and she told me that she knew of a clause because the school had just closed. She said they had discussed the reversion of the property in meetings and that the county had been trying to find a way to keep the land. She then recommended that I look into it. I started researching with the county and never found anything, so I thought maybe she misunderstood. I just today checked some records through our county court's online records... It shows a newly posted, closed case with the plaintiff as the school district and the defendants as John's estate. According to the dockets, the school filed to be allowed to keep the land in April. Even though my realtor had told me they knew about the reverting to the family, not one word of that is mentioned in the court papers. In fact, they stress that it is just a formality because they can't find the original title. Oddly, the realtor had told me that the title called for the reversion. I fear the board may have destroyed or "lost" it on purpose. None of the living heirs was contacted, although for some reason, they sent letters to a handful of dead, distant cousins, who weren't heirs, as a technicality. I have researched my family genealogy, and know that the people they attempted to contact have been dead for at least 70 years. They also sent letters to heirs of those dead descendants who were in no way part of the estate. Yet, while they contacted these people, they never even tried to contact the actual heirs until after the judgment was final, though they used "publication." I can search the probate records and see that the heirs, and their current addresses are available. John's will shows my Grandmother, as well as updated information until her death 1997. Her will is also accessible, showing her heirs. They only sent one letter towards the heirs, after the judgment was final- The docket shows that a registered letter mailed to "John" (who died in 1918) and was undeliverable (in 2005!) and says his estate's heirs are unknown. I find this a little strange, as I specifically told a member of the school board that it was my ancestors' property. In reality, the sole heir to the estate was my deceased grandmother and her heirs are my dad and two aunts. I have been examining the school board's case records (our county's records are all accessible online.) It turns out, the president of the board of ed. signed an affidavit stating that, though they could not find the title, she had first hand knowledge that the school had purchased the land... in 1914. The woman who testified this wasn't even alive then, plus she just took the position with the school board this year (from another county!) The board of ed used as "proof" a copy of a survey of the land from the time it was taken. Oddly, their "proof" states across the top that the land was "taken to be used for school purposes." By common law of that era, land that is no longer used for school purposes must be offered for sale to the original owner's heirs, for the price the school paid. I have a feeling, that when they took the land in 1914 it was nowhere near its current value; the area is now being developed and property prices have jumped drastically! The court docket shows that by default, because no heir (i.e. the dead man they addressed) replied, the county court awarded the property to the county school district. It shows that the property was transferred on 9-27-2005. It is a large piece of land, so I checked the online property records. It is appraised at nearly a million dollars. My grandmother was stabbed in the back when she was an infant and again when she didn't receive her full inheritance at 21. It now looks like her heirs are being robbed. My dad and his sisters don't want be so naive and bullied.
Is this a valid transaction when the court clearly did not contact the heirs? They merely contacted a man who died in 1918, when common sense shows that he would be dead. They did go out of their way to find current female descendants of distant cousins we have never been in touch with. These two women dismissed their interests (which they didn't really have since they weren't the heirs!) and the attorney for the board used that as proof that the family gave up their interests. The two living women they contacted are married and don't even use the same name, making it even harder to find them. Yet, the attorney found them and didn't even try to find the rightful heirs. Isn't it a little odd that the *county* court awarded such a valuable property to the *county* school district with no real attempt to contact the true owners? Especially when the district is having funding issues and wants to sell the land? Gee, the fact that the suddenly want to "formalize" the title doesn't have anything to do with the reversion that they conveniently forgot to mention in court?
Does the fact that they apparently published a notice count against us? We don't know where it was supposedly posted. It has been 91 years since the property was transferred with the clause. I don't believe it is reasonable for them to seriously expect that we happen to check the newspaper daily for a notice about clause we didn't even know existed until I found out (too late) by accident! Fortunately, one of the three direct heirs was living abroad which apparently diminishes the force of their publication. This all occurred within less than five months and was conducted with an out of town attorney. The school board publishes their minutes online- none of the minutes concerning this case are posted. It is as if they wanted to keep it as under cover as possible.
We are going to pursue this sneaky theft. Does anyone here have opinions or related experiences?
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