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What is an Abeyance?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Derived from the French word abeance that is translated to mean “gaping”, an abeyance refers to a state in which there is an absence of clear ownership to a piece of property. However, abeyance also carries with it the expectation that the matter of ownership will be resolved in a reasonable period of time. Here are some of the factors that may lead to the declaration of an abeyance, as well as how the matter of ownership may be eventually resolved.

When there is no clear title to a property, there is usually a suspension of real estate ownership that is put into place. During this period where a suspension of title is imposed, it is possible for several things to occur. First, investigation into the circumstances of the last verifiable owner of the property may be conducted. Locating the individual or business entity that formerly had clear title to the property may yield valuable clues in how to determine the identity of the current owner.

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Second, the property cannot be sold to anyone during the abeyance, since there is no determined owner of record. Third, taxes will continue to be accrued on the property, and once the abeyance is satisfied and there is a clear owner of record, he or she will be responsible for settling the outstanding taxes on the property. Essentially, until there is a clear establishment of real estate ownership, the abeyance makes it impossible to develop, sell, or do anything with the property.

Once the lapse in succession is reversed, there may be several ways to deal with the abeyance. State and local laws may vary slightly in the way that abeyances are established and then recanted, so it is important to check for current laws governing real estate in the area where the property under abeyance is located. In some locations, it is possible for the local municipality to cease control of the property under abeyance, if it can be demonstrated that a reasonable effort to determine ownership has taken place. At that point, the property can be developed by the municipality or sold to an individual or business for development.

Dealing with a property that is under abeyance is not easy. The process of determining the rightful owner can take years, and in some instances where ownership is hotly debated, the process may take decades. Legal rights of ownership to properties under abeyance are not granted without a great deal of solid evidence, which can be a costly endeavor that will result in the expenditure of more time and resources than the property is actually worth.

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