Acquiring legal title to real property can be complex, particularly if the land is old or abandoned. In unusual situations, the knowledge of a Massachusetts real estate attorney may be beneficial to achieve your goals. In an October 26, 2018 case, the plaintiffs sought to obtain title to the vacant, residential lot next to their property. Current ownership of the vacant lot was unclear, as the owner named in the 1903 deed had died long ago. The plaintiffs, however, succeeded in acquiring a 25% share of the property. They then filed a petition in Land Court seeking a partition of the lot, naming 47 respondents who were or could be the heirs, devisees, or other successors in interest to the late owner.
Under Massachusetts law, any person, except a tenant by the entirety, owning an undivided legal estate in the land may seek a partition, with a presumption that such partition should result in the physical division of land. The plaintiffs in the case did not intend to splinter the vacant lot, but rather, sought to use the partition statute as a means to obtain title to the entire lot, free and clear of its other owners.
After serving all of the co-owners with notice of the partition action, the plaintiffs filed a motion for default judgments against 39 co-owners who did not respond. Collectively, these 39 individuals owned a 55% interest in the lot. The court granted default judgments. Eight co-owners, collectively holding almost 20% interest in the lot, participated in the proceedings. The court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to a partition and appointed a commissioner to make recommendations as to the division of the lot.