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Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Old Jun 26th 2012, 11:14 pm
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Default Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

My uncle A died unexpectedly in California. He has a son but they did not have a close relationship.

Upon hearing of the death my uncles brother (uncle B) went to California and gained entrance to the house before the son got there.

When the son arrived some money he expected to be in the house was missing. Uncle B denied having it but after certain threats were made (I suspect going to the police) the money was "strategically replaced".

The son says that he confronted uncle B about a black briefcase he also removed and asked him what was inside and what had been taken. Uncle B refused to answer but relinquished the briefcase back to the son.

Now here's why I am posting. Uncle A owns property in Africa, his wife says the deeds are in a black briefcase (presumably the same one) in the house. The son says he has gone through the briefcase and the deeds are not there.

Uncle B is travelling to Africa in less than 2 weeks. The concern is that he has the deeds and may try to sell the property (although we are not sure he can do this).

Is this a situation where the police would intervene and can assist. On the assumption that Uncle B took the docs we would not want him leaving the country with them.
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Old Jun 26th 2012, 11:24 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

I have no idea, but I will not let that stop me giving an opinion, until someone more knowledgeable comes along.

I would go to the police and see what they say at least. It sounds like a theft happened, so I would want to report it, it might help to have something down on paper as reported for future reference too.

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Old Jun 26th 2012, 11:32 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

A probate lawyer sounds like a good idea. Is there a will/executor. It sounds bad, but it could turn out Uncle B is the person supposed to get the Africa property and he is protecting his interests from the bad guy son. Did either of them "break and enter"?

(btw I am not one of the knowledgeable ones Kimilseung mentioned)
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 1:50 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

What country in Africa? It's a big place.... Presumably this country will have property laws of some kind? Presumably also deeds carry a name, so the mere possession of a bit of paper doesn't confer ownership of the property (by which I mean having the deeds in hand is necessary but not sufficient to transfer ownership)?

Also not one of the knowledgeable ones...

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Old Jun 27th 2012, 2:57 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Okay, I'm with the rest, in that I am no expert, but here's my take on it.

You say there's a wife?? Are they separated/divorced?? If not, then she is the next of kin, if they're divorced, I would assume that the son is the next of kin, if he's the only child. Is there a will?? If there's property or any sort of estate, and there's no will, I would assume that all financial/property issues would have to go to probate and they would need to sort out everything. How did the Uncle gain entrance to the house?? And if it's been proved that he already "took" money from the house, I would be very suspicious. I would also assume that if, for reasons best known to himself, he has taken the legal deeds to the house in Africa, in order to sell it, he would have to prove that he is the legal owner, which from what you tell us, he isn't. So, unless he fraudulently has some way of convincing someone he is your deceased uncle, I don't see him being able to do anything with the property in Africa.

Maybe if there is a will, then all the documentation for the house in Africa is with the lawyer, so that anything like this would be prevented in the event of your Uncle's death. Not a nice situation, and whether him and his son were close or not, if there's not a will and he is divorced, then the son still has legal rights with regards to your Uncle's estate.

Unfortunately, death sometimes brings out the worst in people and families, and I have been stuck in family arguments regarding possessions and money etc, many, many times, and it is horrible. I'm sorry that it's come to this and also for the loss of your Uncle. I hope everything gets sorted out okay
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 2:59 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post
What country in Africa? It's a big place.... Presumably this country will have property laws of some kind? Presumably also deeds carry a name, so the mere possession of a bit of paper doesn't confer ownership of the property (by which I mean having the deeds in hand is necessary but not sufficient to transfer ownership)?

Also not one of the knowledgeable ones...
Not sure if this is helpful given that the property is in Africa: http://www.ehow.com/how_12151899_cha...rents-die.html

Best to talk to a local lawyer to find out how property deeds are treated in the specific country.
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 3:02 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Definately, call the cops. Ugly situation for sure.

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Old Jun 27th 2012, 8:27 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post
What country in Africa? It's a big place.... Presumably this country will have property laws of some kind? Presumably also deeds carry a name, so the mere possession of a bit of paper doesn't confer ownership of the property (by which I mean having the deeds in hand is necessary but not sufficient to transfer ownership)?

Also not one of the knowledgeable ones...
Knowing some parts of Africa as well as I do laws property or otherwise make little difference. The right size bribe overcomes just about all difficulties.
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 8:31 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Originally Posted by ihe View Post

Upon hearing of the death my uncles brother (uncle B) went to California and gained entrance to the house before the son got there.
A lot will depend on how that was done, and what substantive proof you have the document was in the briefcase when it was taken.

As to police having the power to prevent someone leaving the country and requiring production of the document, that rests with the Court. Supposing there was enough evidence of a crime to get it that far in the first place.
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 9:33 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Originally Posted by lansbury View Post
Knowing some parts of Africa as well as I do laws property or otherwise make little difference. The right size bribe overcomes just about all difficulties.
There are lots of places like that. But then of course having the deeds would make no difference anyway.
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Old Jun 27th 2012, 9:39 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post
But then of course having the deeds would make no difference anyway.
Certainly in Zimbabwe there is no use for deeds.
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Old Jun 30th 2012, 9:53 pm
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

I'm not an expert nor instructing anyone to do anything in particular because every action can have legal consequences, even upon you. Saying that, I'd explore a few things beforehand to see what may be a course of action to take. Obviously you need to know what laws there are in the country the property is in and see if anything of stateside rational and methods 'translates' over there per se in terms of what is the best approach to take. Probably an idea to have copies of the death cert, copy of the will, probably need to know what the title is of the property. All of this you want to know if there is legal relevance and equivalence of rights, based on background foresight.

Hearing "deed' I am taking it in the strictest sense of use overhere, as it is often a source of confusion. Overhere, a Deed is an instrument used to convey ownership of real property from one party to another. A Title states who is, and is the proof of, the ownership. Title also may determine survivorship (Joint tenants is equal share and upon death, the remaining parties obtain that person's interest. ie X and Y are in joint tenants (50/50), X dies, Y gets the share and sole tenancy. If X,Y an Z are joints tenants (1/3 equal), X dies, Y and Z get X's share and once again, they're joint tenants with 50/50 interest. Tenants in common is waaay different; typically its the offspring who inherit the interest in the property of that party.

You want to find out if its the same in the country in question. If he just has deeds, potentially all he is doing is conveying interests and ownership rights to the property. So, if there are multiple parties on title, one is removing and replacing names and subsequent rights in the property and revising the title. It takes all parties to agree to sell and convey ownership collectively. BUT, and here's the big but, if the property is currently owned out right and it was just your uncle A on title etc... (or the deeds are showing conveyance from 2 people to just Uncle B) then you potentially have a serious problem on your hands, as you know. Effectively Unlce B is trying to do a house grab as it were.

If he is pretending to be Uncle A, then that is a different thing all together... easiest to perhaps see about clouding the title** because if he 'sells' it to an outside party, such fraud is going to cause more issues as its not the correct chain of title/ownership etc. Obviously for him to truly capitalize and wash it clean he'd have to convey it to himself then sell it for monetary value - or conceivably hold it 'ransom' to the Estate to buy it back ... which in the interim the title could possibly be clouded and his dirty deeds stalled and thwarted in limbo. Ugly mess!!

You need to know if the property is in the most recent and relevant Will as it then is grounds for anyone to contest the will and challenge anyone's claim on the property... and that is where the Title comes into play (overhere at least) as often Title may supersede a will. See why its often a mess?!? (Keep in mind, a US will might not be legally recognized in Africa)

** If you truly think that Uncle B is up to nefarious affairs, one idea to explore, and I won't publicly say on here atleast one easy way to do it, but if you were able to effectively cloud the title of the property in question - recording somesort of interest in that property, then perhaps you might be able to buy time etc. The premise being that one couldn't convey clean clear title, as there is another claim/interest on the property too; hence maybe have to approach whomever to remove the cloud. Again, you have to see if that is applicable for that African country. (The thing too is find out is that does it matter if recorded documents have more bearing than unrecorded claims - there is a reason for the need to publicly record documents, both for legal purposes and protection.) But as a warning, such action may result in legal consequence upon you. I am willing to bet that the deeds Uncle A possibly has haven't been recorded otherwise, why a scramble to get them. (This is why, overhere, it makes sense to have property in living trusts or if you own it outright in your name, maybe cloud your own title to selfcreate a senior right of interest to prevent others staking a higher claim to your house!!)

I'd see what law enforcement have to say about the situation, perhaps ask the FBI (??!!) and at the very least talk to an attorney; esp a local one where the property is located.

Last edited by Tarkak9; Jun 30th 2012 at 10:34 pm.
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Old Jul 2nd 2012, 12:48 am
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Default Re: Pretty much graverobbing - what to do

This is complicated - and it isn't clear what the OP's interest/involvement is ...

Since the deceased appears to have been a resident of California and died in California his estate will go through probate in California (which can be a slow and lengthy process).

Is there a will and, if so, what does it say and who is the executor of the estate?

I don't see you getting much help from the police and the criminal justice system unless you have some credible evidence that a crime has been committed and, so far, you don't seem to have any.

If, ultimately, the executor of the estate discovers that something was stolen from the estate after your uncle's death they could certainly pursue that matter on behalf of the estate, but if neither the property in question or the person who is alleged to have misappropriated it are actually in California there is probably not much that can be done.

Your best hope is for someone, preferably the person who is named as executor, to review the information and confront "Uncle B" immediately with the facts as he knows them and indicate that there will be legal consequences if anything is taken or sold without permission. Unfortunately this is largely an empty threat but it still might be worth trying ...
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