New York  |  Real Estate Law

Legal Question

Asked on: 7/08/13, 2:32 pm

My husband's ex-wife got half of the property we are currently living on in the divorce. Since the divorce, 25 years ago, she has not paid any taxes on the property nor has she maintained it in any way. Does she still have any rights to this property? If not, do we need to do something to get her off the deed to the land?

1 Answer

Answered on: 7/09/13, 4:33 am by Philip Katz

Unfortunately it's not as simple as getting her "off the deed." In fact, she is 1/2 owner of the property and has rights as a 1/2 owner. While you will have quite a fight on your hands if you seek to "get her off the deed," there is a theory of law called "constructive trust." It is a theory of equity that gives the Courts of the State of New York the power to look beyond ownership documents to determine true owners of the property. In simple lay person's terms, a constructive trust describes a relationship by which a person who has obtained title to property has an equitable duty to transfer it to another, to whom it rightfully belongs, on the basis that the acquisition or retention of it is wrongful and would unjustly enrich the person if he or she were allowed to retain it. I have litigated a number of these cases. They are not easy, but it is the most effective way to remove a legal owner from title. Feel free to call my office at (212) 385-1373 if you wish to arrange for a more detailed consultation on this matter.

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