Land titles, will woes and bank loans

My father died without making a will in 1972 and I have farmed the land on my own since. My brothers and sister left many years ago and live in England and America. I want a loan from the Bank but they are insisting that the land is in my name before they will advance funds. What is involved?

The good news is that there is a relatively cheap and convenient procedure to update the title to your farm without having the expense of take out a grant to the estate of your late father. I am presuming, as is the case with most agricultural land in Ireland that the title to your farm is registered in the Land Registry, and remains in your father’s name. Also that you are in sole receipt of the rents and profits of the farm and that there will be no objections from your brothers and sister who left many years ago and live abroad.

Your title to the farm can be established by way of what is known as an  ‘adverse possession’ application to the Land Registry more popularily known as a ‘Squatters Title’ . Your title is not based upon a deed but rather on your sole and exclusive beneficial occupation of your farm  and sole receipt of the rents and profits without having acknowledging the right of any other person to your farm.

The legal basis for this application is the Statute of Limitations 1957, which provides that where a person has a right to property and the property is in the possession of another person for a prescribed period , then a right of action for the recovery of land is barred and person who is in possession can make an application to Land Registry for his or her registration as owner.

The period of limitation is in the usual course 12 years however as in this case, the prescribed period is six years where a beneficiary of a deceased owner in possession bars the other beneficiaries.

As always in these matters and in particular when considering applying to be registered as owner based upon long possession the first thing to do is to go and see your solicitor. He or she will require some help from you before the application can be prepared.

Your solicitor will need to know whether a grant was extracted to your fathers estate. If so, your solicitor will require the name and address of the personal representative of your father.

Your solicitor will want a copy of his death certificate and the names and present addresses of your brothers and sisters. Your solicitor will need full details of when your sole possession of the farm commenced and the use you have made of it over the years. Your solicitor will then be in a position to prepare and make the application to Land Registry.

If the Land Registry is satisfied that a good case has been made it will serve notice of the application on all parties affected in this case your brothers and sister in America and England. In the absence of objection you will be registered as owner of your farm. Of course if there is objection then that is a horse of a different colour!

The procedure is intended to facilitate uncontested claims  and where objection is made the matter may well fall to be decided by the court. Every years hundreds of titles to farms are updated on this basis which is a cheap and convenient method of updating title to your farm in the  circumstances you have described.

By John Deeney 

Mr Deeney is a barrister and former Deputy Registrar of Titles in the Property Registration Authority. He now provides Land Registration Consultancy Services and can be contacted by email [email protected].

Next week’s legal query: I am the co-owner of a farm with my husband who is an alcoholic. I have terminal cancer and wish to safeguard my share of the farm for my three children aged 13, 10, and 8.?  What are my options?