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How can we challenge property ownership on a villa we should have inherited?

Inheritance Law

Antonio Flores Vila

1st of December 2001

Q. Our Father was divorced from our Mother. He remarried a Belgian lady, and together they purchased a Villa, in Marbella. During their divorce, he was given the Villa, exclusively, and she was given other property, in the United States of equal value. Shortly after his divorce from the Belgian lady, he married a Puerto Rican lady, and then died. This third wife, did not own the Villa, however she presented two Wills in Court in Florida, and obtained an invalid Power of Attorney, from the Belgian lady, who no longer owned the Villa, in Marbella(because of the divorce agreement).

We are five children, all heirs to the property, according to Spanish Law. We have never been recognized by the Puerto Rican lady, even though we have paid our inheritance taxes, on the property. To this date, the Puerto Rican lady is renting the property, collecting the rent, but not disbursing it among the rest of us, or even asking our permission to rent the property, when we are all entitled to it's use, two months out of each year! This has been going on, since 1993. She did NOT buy our share of the property. We have received nothing from her! As the Administrator of the Estate, she has taken over, provided incorrect documents to the Tribunal, and failed to recognize us, as legal heirs.

Please advise me what our recourse might be? Thank you!

Jupiter, Florida USA

    A. I am assuming from what you are telling me that the villa is still in the name of your father. That would mean that any monies the Puerto Rican lady is deriving from renting the property she may be held accountable for refund. This could put her in a difficult situation if legal action is initiated. Also, you could commence to organise paperwork and embark on a ┬┤intestate heirs declaration┬┤(declaracion de herederos abintestato), in order to receive ownership.

    However, it could well be the case that the PR (Puerto Rican) lady had a valid will which she used to obtain ownership of that property, after following all legal steps necessary to that effect. In that case, we would need to know when was the property bequeathed in order to assess whether the prescription time limits for bringing an action (to challenge current ownership) have not elapsed.

    I do not quite understand the use of a power of attorney from the Belgian lady to the PR lady for it to be used to transact on the property. If your dad was the owner of the property on his death, all powers of attorney he may have conferred on someone cease to be valid automatically, and cannot be used. Otherwise, the belgian lady could have used a power of attorney she had, on death of your dad, to sell it to the Puerto Rican lady, in a fictitious sale. This is a possibility in which you would have a criminal swindle action against both ladies, as the PR lady must have known of the death of your dad, as well as the Belgian lady, when this hypothetical transaction took place.

    My suggestion is to make a land registry verification in order to establish ownership details, after which a decision on the best course of action can be made. You would need to provide the land registry details of the villa.

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