• Failure to File a Claim in an Estate Does Not Defeat a Title Achieved By Adverse Possession
  • August 4, 2015 | Author: Edward J. Levin
  • Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
  • In Nimro v. Holden, 222 Md.App. 16, 110 A.3d 805 (2015), the Court of Special Appeals held that the failure by a person who obtained title to real property by adverse possession to file a timely claim in a decedent’s estate did not terminate that person’s interest in the property.

    The case emerged from an action to quiet title filed in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County by Guy Nimro with respect to certain property located between his property and Herring Bay. He alleged that he acquired title to that property by adverse possession. At the time the case was filed, record title to the property was held by Jane Holder as personal representative of the Estate of Dan D. Westland.

    Section 8-103 of the Estates and Trusts Article of the Maryland Code (ET) provides that “all claims against an estate of a decedent . . . are forever barred against the estate, the personal representative, and the heirs and legatees, unless presented within . . . 6 months after the date of the decedent’s death.” Nimro did not file a claim in time, and on that basis the circuit court dismissed his complaint.

    On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals considered the nature of the title that is obtained by adverse possession. Judge Lawrence Rodowsky, who was specially assigned to the panel, wrote that when a property has been used in a manner to satisfy the requirements of adverse possession for the statutory period of time, the title that the adverse holder then has “is as perfect as a title by deed” (quoting Safe Deposit & Trust Co. v. Marburg, 110 Md. 410 (1909)). Judge Rodowsky added that obtaining an easement by prescription operates in the same way.

    The court noted that a quiet title action is in rem; it is based on a person’s conduct (which is wrongful until the statutory period for possession has run) and the failure of the record owner to assert the rights of ownership. This differs in kind from a claim against an estate that is addressed by ET §8-103, which is based on a contract by a decedent and in an in personam action. Judge Rodowsky stated, “Where, as here, the title or ownership of specific property is alleged to have been fully acquired by an adverse possession before the decedent’s death, it would seem that the assertion of that right is not a claim against the estate.”

    Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals held that Nimro’s action to quiet title was not barred by ET §8-103, and it reversed the order of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.