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I inherited an empty lot in a residential neighborhood in Kingsville, Texas from my grandfather when he died several years ago. I have been paying taxes on this property since then, but I would like to stop paying taxes on this property and abandon it. Is there a legal way to go about this?

The city has recently been sending me notices telling me that I need to have the yard maintained. They are threatening to fine me if I don't do this.

I tried to sell this lot a few years ago, and that is when I discovered that the title on the property is not clear. My grandfather apparently paid cash for it when he bought it twenty years ago, and he didn't bother have the title transferred over in a legal way. The original owner has since died and his three children now have some claim on this property.

The county lists me as the owner, so I'm responsible for upkeep and taxes, and yet I can't sell it because the title is not clear. I have consulted a real estate lawyer, and he wants to charge me more money to try to fix things than the property is worth, and without any guarantees that he can clear the title.

Is there anyone versed in real estate law that can offer advice? Why can't I just abandon this lot? What can the county do to me if I just stop paying taxes? What can the city do to me if don't maintenance the yard and end up getting fines? I don't live anywhere near this town -- I'm 250 miles away in Houston. My poor grandfather thought he was doing me a favor, but it's ended up being a curse.

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Sometimes you can't. In Washington, for example, it is possible to disclaim property, because RCW 11.86.021 says

(1) A beneficiary may disclaim an interest in whole or in part, or with reference to specific parts, shares or assets, in the manner provided in RCW 11.86.031.

and there is a procedure for writing up and filing that disclaimer. However, there is a time limit that you have to do it

by nine months after the latest of: (a) The date the beneficiary attains the age of twenty-one years; (b) The date of the transfer; (c) The date that the beneficiary is finally ascertained and the beneficiary's interest is indefeasibly vested; or (d) December 17, 2010, if the date of the transfer is the date of the death of the creator of the interest and the creator dies after December 31, 2009, and before December 18, 2010

and RCW 11.86.051 gives a list of reasons why you cannot disclaim an interest. "Indefeasible" means "you can't get out of it".

If you fail to pay taxes on real estate, it can be seized and sold by the county to satisfy the tax delinquency. The county will then attempt to sell the property, perhaps for exactly the amount of taxes owed. That sale "clears" the title so that the purchaser does not have to worry about a could over the title (Sec. 34.01.(n) of the Texas tax code). The city can also separately assess you for violation of whatever ordinance they are concerned with: there will be some procedure for the abatement of the nuisance (weeds, usually), an assessment which is made against the property. Notice is given to the owner (or, the person they think is the owner), but the "risk" is shouldered by the property.

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    Sold for tax delinquency is the classic way of unloading unwanted property. He could go so far as filing a claim the property is worth 0 and so should be taxed at 0, and if the city argues, turn it around and say if you think it's worth more, here's a quitclaim deed.
    – Joshua
    May 30, 2023 at 3:19
  • @Joshua, good point. A written appraisal based on unuseability and unsaleability filed with an affidavit becomes part of the record that stands unless rebutted, right? Jun 7, 2023 at 18:49

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