Someone Claims to Own a Parcel of my Family’s Land, Can he Force me to Sign a Quitclaim for my Part?

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“Please note the land in question is in Massachusetts. I received a letter from a man (I’ll call Mr. Smith) who purchased property owned by a descendent of mine who owned the property in the 1800’s and died in the 1890’s. Supposedly there’s a missing document and there’s no deed showing this property transferred out of my descendant’s estate. Mr. Smith bought this property from someone who had a flaw in the title. Unfortunately Mr. Smith did not have sufficient title insurance and has asked me to help him solve a title problem with the land by quitclaiming my interest for $800. Please note, this is Mr. Smith’s second request. He sent me a letter in 2003 and offered $200. I ignored that request. Mr. Smith’s letter and synopsis of the problem on the surface makes it look like only 1, 6 acre parcel of land is in question. He listed just 1 property address on the quitclaim deed he wants me to sign. I’ve searched the registry of deeds and have discovered there are “at least” 5 parcels of land involved. There may be more. Mr. Smith stumbled around and had trouble answering when I asked him if we were talking about more than one parcel of land and finally admitted to 3 parcels. Now I’ve found 2 more. It’s possible there’s more parcels involved since the original deed listed 30 acres. He wants me to 1. Sign the quitclaim deed. It’s written in the same language as my descendant’s deed (i.e. refers to 30 acres of land) not in the language of the deed that supposedly transferred ownership to him. 2. He wants me to “release and grant all my right, title and interest in ANY real property in which my late descendant held any right, title and interest at her time of death. To make this even more complicated, he settled with someone outside the family (I’ll call him Mr. Jones) who found out about the title a problem a few years ago and bought my 2 Uncles’ (now deceased) interest in the land. This gave Mr. Jones 2/3 interest in the land. Mr. Smith settled with Mr. Jones by quitclaiming 2 of the 5 parcels of land over to Mr Jones. Technically, my family members still have interest in these 2 parcels. I see through the registry of deeds database, that as Mr. Smith gets members of my family to unknowingly quitclaim their interest in all 5 parcels, Mr. Smith signs his interest for the 2 quitclaimed parcels (the interest he obtains after my family member signs) over to Mr. Jones. I’ve told Mr. Smith it is unfair to ask me to”release and grant all my interest in all property my descendent had interest in at the time of her death. He’s been responsive to my calls up until a week ago. Now he doesn’t return my calls. Do I have a case to sue for damages since he’s withholding information and misled me and my relatives. Is it worth defending my interest in the property and demand sufficient compensation?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

That’s a pretty complicated situation you’re describing.

First of all, if you haven’t signed away any rights yet, you probably don’t have anything to sue about. Just lying to you (assuming he’s lying) doesn’t usually give you the right to sue someone until you are damaged by the lie.

It’s almost impossible to tell from a distance what rights you and your relatives have to this property (1890 is a long time ago), and therefore what you’re really giving away if you do agree to this. The fact that Mr. Smith appears to be hiding things does raise the question whether there’s more here than meets the eye, but the only way to tell for sure is to hire a local attorney to review the situation, including the relevant property records. Even then, you may not get a definitive answer, since the result could depend on how evidence is interpreted in a (hypothetical) trial. Still, you will probably get enough information to help you decide how you want to proceed.

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Author: House Attorney

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