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  • Writer's pictureKyle Persaud

Can Someone Force Me to Sign over My Interest in Property?

With few exceptions, the answer is no. If property is in your name, or if you have an interest in the property, you have the right to keep the property, and convey it (or not convey it) to whomever you want.


To first map out this discussion, we must understand what “property” is. Many people believe that “property” only means “land.” This is not true; anything that may be owned is “property.”


Okla. Stat. tit. 60 § 1 says:


“The ownership of a thing is the right of one or more persons to possess and use it to the exclusion of others. In this Chapter the thing of which there may be ownership is called property.”


Okla. Stat. tit 60 § 2 says:


“There may be ownership of all inanimate things which are capable of appropriation, or of manual delivery; of all domestic animals; of all obligations; of such products of labor or skill, as the composition of an author, the good will of a business, trade marks and signs, and of rights created or granted by statute.”


Okla. Stat. tit. 60 § 4 says:


“Property is either:


1. Real or immovable; or

2. Personal or movable.”


Okla. Stat. tit. 60 § 5 says:


“Real or immovable property consists of:

1. Land.

2. That which is affixed to land.

3. That which is incidental or appurtenant to land.

4. That which is immovable by law.”


Okla. Stat. tit. 60 § 9 says:


Every kind of property that is not real is personal.”

 

Someone may have told you that you have to convey property to them. They are most likely lying. Note what the above statute says: “The ownership of a thing is the right of one or more persons to possess and use it to the exclusion of others.” So, if you own property, you have the right to possess and use it. If you own an interest in property along with someone else, the other co-owner may convey his interest, but he may not force you to convey yours.


The only way that a person could conceivably force you to convey your property to them, is if you have made a contract to convey the property to them. Then, someone could sue you for breach of contract, and a court could order you to convey the property.


Do you have a contract to convey property?


In a previous post, I discuss how to determine whether you have a contract, and whether the contract is valid. Most contracts do not need to be in writing, however, the following contracts do need to be in writing:


1.     An agreement that is not to be performed within a year


2.     A promise to pay the debt of another person


3.     An agreement made in consideration of marriage;


4.     A contract for the sale of an interest in land, or for the lease of an interest in land for a period longer than one year.


See the Statute of Frauds, here.


The fourth type of contract that must be in writing, the contract for sale of an interest in land, is relevant to this inquiry. If someone claims that you have to sign land over to them, and there is no written contract to do so, you don’t have to convey the land to them.


Other times you may be forced to convey property


Although you have the right to own property, and people may not generally force you to give your property to them, there are a few exceptions where this is not the case. These include:


If you have mortgaged the property, you have defaulted on the loan, and the lender files a foreclosure lawsuit.


See my blog post, “How to Fight Your Foreclosure in Court” for when a lender may foreclose on property, and how you can defend against a foreclosure.


If a court allows a creditor to seize property to satisfy a debt


If a court grants someone a judgment against you, and you don’t pay, the creditor may obtain a court order to seize your property to pay off the debt. Also, if a plaintiff has filed a lawsuit against you, and the plaintiff has reasonable grounds to believe that you have left the state of the county, or you have concealed yourself to avoid service of the summons, or that you are about to remove your property, then the plaintiff may ask the judge to “attach” your property. The sheriff will then seize your property. If the property seized is real property, the sheriff will deliver the order of attachment to the occupant. If the property is personal property, the sheriff will take custody of the property.


Some types of property are exempt, and no one may seize them or attach them in a civil lawsuit. Exempt property includes your principal residence, your household and kitchen furniture, your computer, professionally prescribed health aids, and others. For a complete list of the property that is exempt from seizure or attachment, click here.


In a divorce case, a court may award property to your ex-spouse even if the property is in your name alone.


In a divorce case, all property that you acquired during your marriage (except by gift or inheritance) is considered “marital property.” A court is to divide marital property “equitably” between the spouses. This is true even if your name is the only name on the title to the property. If you acquired the property before marriage, or if you acquired the property by gift or inheritance, the property is “separate property” and a court is to award your separate property to you. However, if you commingle your separate property with your spouse’s property, the separate property can lose its character as separate property, and become marital property, and a court may equitably divide this property between the spouses. For a case which discusses this principle, click here.


If the government takes your property in a civil forfeiture proceeding


If you used your property in committing certain crimes, or obtained property as a result of committing certain crimes, the government may confiscate your property as a penalty. To find out how to contest a civil forfeiture, read my earlier posts here and here.


If the government takes your property by eminent domain


Under the law of eminent domain, the government may take your property for “public use” if the government pays you “just compensation.” In recent years, courts have formulated a very broad definition of “public use”, so that almost anything can fall under the definition of “public use.” Courts have allowed to take property from one party, and give the property to another private entity, and called this “public use.”


Has Someone Threatened to Take Your Property?


If someone has threatened to take your property, chances are they’re bluffing. However, there are other exceptions – not listed above – in which someone can take your property without your consent.


If someone has told you that you need to give property to them, and you want legal advice as to your rights, contact the Persaud Law Office. We have helped many people in property disputes, and we may be able to advise you.

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