A situation regarding ownership of an 11-acre island has been ongoing for decades now. Illinois landowners planning their estates may want to take note of this case to help their heirs avoid similar problems in the future. A key factor in this particular situation appears to be the way the estate owner worded things (or failed to stipulate them) in her last will and testament.
The island in question is located in another state. Before she died, the woman who owned the island reportedly gave the land to a religious community so it could open a retreat center there. The problem is that her gesture was apparently not properly recorded in her will or a deed to the property. When the woman died, there were 36 people listed in her last will and testament with reversionary rights to the property. If an Illinois estate owner grants reversionary rights to someone, ownership of the property would revert to that person (or entity) if a prescribed event (such as using the property for other than what was specified) were to happen.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that 33 of the heirs have relinquished their rights but three others have not. The three claimants who have not signed quitclaim deeds (to formally renounce their rights to the property) are scheduled to appear in a Connecticut court in the near future. The reverend, however, claims that all 36 heirs already lost their reversionary rights in 1970 due to a claim of adverse possession and because the statute of limitations has expired. It remains to be seen if those allegations will be upheld in court. Complex situations like this are often easier to resolve if those involved rely on experienced legal representation in court.
Anyone in Illinois with questions regarding reversionary rights may want to reach out for legal support before executing an estate plan in order to seek clarification of any and all laws that may affect use of inherited or gifted property once the estate owner has died. Anyone listed as an heir or beneficiary in someone’s will also benefits by consulting with an experienced estate planning and administration attorney, especially if he or she has legal concerns regarding an inheritance. As in the situation mentioned earlier, litigation is sometimes necessary to resolve disputes that arise after an estate owner’s death.