I need to shed some land in Colorado.
July 16, 2013 4:28 AM   Subscribe

Due to a ridiculous series of events, I am in quasi-possession of some land in Huerfano County, Colorado. Due to what I understand is a Colorado-specific difficult process of inheritance, the land (in my late wife's name) is more expensive to transfer to me than it is worth and since it is in her name, I can't even gift it. It costs me $100 or more annually to hold onto this acreage, and I am considering abandoning it.

My late father in law (died in the 1980's) bought a lot in Rio Cucharas, a 'development' mirage outside of Walsenburg, Colorado. (It was one of those back cover of Parade Magazine pitches and he fell for it. Jeez.). When he died, his wife was on the deed, so no problem. When she died, my wife wanted it and the estate paid to have it transferred to her. As luck would have it, my wife later died and due to an oversight, I was not on the deed, so I had to have it transferred. At the time of her death, I was not in the frame of mind to solve the problem and let it coast.

Now, it is 15 years later. I pay a paltry $100 a year or so in taxes, but that just seems silly. I could buy lottery tickets to better effect.

From what I understand, the transfer can be effected with the assistance of a Colorado lawyer, but I have to present credentials regarding my status as estate executor, a role which I no longer hold. I have to have a judge certify that I am the executor and have someone else certify that the judge is a judge.

I think the land may be worth $1000 or best case, $2000. I've run ads in Colorado Craiglist offering it for free to lawyers there, and of course, only got inquiries from non-lawyers who apparently can't read a freaking sentence. Legal fees would certainly exceed the property value, and land thereabouts isn't exactly beachfront property in Hawaii. It could be another 15 years before I could sell it.

I'm not looking for legal advice, but I am wondering if there's anyone practicing in Colorado who is savvy to these situations, and/or I am looking for ideas on how to give this thing away. Seems better to hand it over to someone who wants it than to let the state have it?

Any ideas, Oracle of MeFi?
posted by FauxScot to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Not a laywer, this is internet-searched advice and personal experience.

I'd talk to these guys and see what would happen if you just stop paying taxes. Around here, if you stop paying taxes, a lien gets put on it, and can be sold at auction. If there are no other claimants or liens, someone may simply be able to buy it for the price of the lien.
posted by tilde at 5:38 AM on July 16, 2013

It's worth a quick call to Colorado Open Lands (http://www.coloradoopenlands.org/) and see if they can help you...
posted by nkknkk at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another factor to consider is whether this land will ever be developable in its current configuration -- water rights may have expired by now, if they ever had them. If the land doesn't have water rights (or an agreement for access to municipal water), it's basically worthless as residential land. Water rights really vary by state, and I am not super-familiar with how the system works in Colorado, but it's something to check into.

In your situation, I think my first move would be asking owners of the adjacent parcels if they want it for the cost of legal fees. You should be able to get an address for each adjacent parcel owner from the County Assessor -- looks like it's a phone call rather than an online database but offices are usually very helpful about this kind of thing. (There are a ton of reasons why someone might need to contact adjacent property owners.) It's a long shot, but for the price of postage, you might get lucky.

The adjacent property owners are the most likely to be interested in this land, as it would allow them to increase their own lot size. (There might also be minimum lot sizes -- depending on water rights/zoning/whatever there are cases where two lots can be buildable where one lot might not. Unlikely, but it happens.)
posted by pie ninja at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you mefimail me, I know someone who lives in Huerfano County who is an attorney who might me interested in the land or willing to do the legal work for free. My family is from there from way back so I have some connections.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you can find the abutting property owners, maybe they'd pay the fees to acquire the land. Will a tax default affect your credit? You could call the county or town, whoever you pay taxes to, and ask them what the process is to abandon the property. I'll bet lots of others have abandoned their lots.
posted by theora55 at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2013

Seems better to hand it over to someone who wants it than to let the state have it?

The state will eventually have an auction where someone who wants it (or thinks they do) will buy it.

You seem to be spending a lot of time on this problem, but if you "give" it to someone and ask them to cover the legal fees, it might cost more than it would go for at auction.

back cover of Parade Magazine pitches

There are many lots like this near where I live. They sell at tax auctions for more than you could buy them for online, as people go to tax auctions because they know you can get good deals on land there, and after dedicating a day to hanging out at the county courthouse of some little town they are determined to get one of these wonderful deals no matter how much it costs them.

At least you haven't planned an entire vacation around seeing The Valuable LAND You Have Inherited.

I've run ads in Colorado Craiglist offering it for free to lawyers

You might have better luck contacting real estate lawyers directly, but if it's worth $1K-2K it might not be worth the time to them -- they would probably also want to spend time verifying you are legit, and might view this similarly as you would if someone offered to cut you in on a Nigerian prince's wealth.
posted by yohko at 12:07 PM on July 16, 2013

Lots of Colorado law knowlege here:

Two options: First, just don't pay the taxes and it will go on the tax sale..that person willing to do so will then get to recover the property. It won't effect your credit because the land is not in your name;

Second, stop paying for the record owner and wait for the tax sale and pay and get the property in to your name after paying for three years....

Make sure that you have checked to see what mineral rights attach. Water rights are held separately in almost all transactions but you can check this as well by going to the website for the county. It is the poorest county in the state but there could be value....

PS contact probate attorney to fix the title if you want to do that but really the tax sale option will accomplish either result for you. Good Luck!
posted by OhSusannah at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2013

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