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Land Theft Protection
Most logically assume that once you buy something you own it, so you are done paying for it, you can do with it as you please without permission from anyone else, and that's that. In America and most other countries however, land is never truly 'owned' by anyone. Whether land is bought, sold, rented or leased, in all cases it is only held temporarily, taxed, and used according to the laws of the area in which it is located. Despite the lack of true land ownership to begin with, private land rights can be legally stolen from a land 'owner', using laws and legal schemes such as eminent domain, squatter's rights and other forms of adverse possession, leins (for payment of debts, such as gift, estate, probate or delinquent property taxes, loan payments, judgements or lawsuits against land 'owners', etc.), probate (the process of transferring property upon the death of its 'owner'), and escheat (reassignment of legal title to unclaimed property, usually to the state or federal government). If you own a home or land to build a home on, protecting it from legal land theft therefore becomes absolutely vital. All forms of legal land theft may not be completely and 100% preventable, but the possibility may be reduced considerably.
Eminent Domain And Adverse PossessionEminent domain is the right of any government to force owners to sell their property to them (often at rock bottom prices) so private property can be taken for what they consider 'public uses'. This didn't used to pose much of a threat to homeowners, but it is now used as a tool by governments for almost any purpose, public or not. Why so many people seem so much more concerned with the definition of 'public use' than eminent domain being a problem in and of itself is beyond me. But from the time our government stole this land from those already living here and granted each state its own portion, the power of eminent domain has been reserved by all governments at all levels. Condemnation by eminent domain applies to private land, but not to land that is 'owned' or otherwise controlled by federal or state governments, municipalities, public boards or commissions. Citizens may not take anyone else's land via eminent domain but may take private lands via squatters rights, governments can take private and other government lands, and the federal government uses eminent domain to take land from everyone. In short, if anyone could occupy and use your private property as public property, or as their own (typically for at least as long as the statute of limitations in the state and jurisdiction the property is located in, or about 1-15 years), then with enough time and/or money, land you legally 'own' could become public property, or the private property of others.
The possibility of losing property due to adverse possession such as eminent domain or squatters rights may not (as far as I know) be completely eliminated, but it can be reduced. One of the first things private land owners can do to protect their property from such legal land theft, is to ensure that property lines are clearly marked, and that the land within those lines, especially driveways or roads, are blocked from public access.
Liens And ProbateIf structured properly, a trust can be used for personal asset protection, to reduce or even eliminate probate, gift and estate taxes. Holding assets such as land in trust can also be an effective method of reducing the possibility of legal land theft via eminent domain, liens, probate or escheat.
One could also donate a small outer portion of larger tracts of land (in the form of an easement, a community or charitable land trust) to a well-funded, non-profit organization that has been organized for purposes that are most likely to benefit you and the land (such as limiting development to that which is environmentally sustainable, without limiting private property rights). This or similar methods may be used to provide a legal buffer between private land 'owners' and legal land thieves.
Land RightsSocietal and monetary laws aside, no one truly owns the land, any more than anyone owns the air, water, or sun. All who live upon the earth play a part in the environments they live in, the lives of those around them, and require the natural resources of earth to survive. The only thing our planet requires in return for the use of its natural resources, is for those that use them to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. Does it not then seem logical that all are (or should be) freely and equally entitled to use the natural resources of earth, so long as we do so in an environmentally sustainable manner, and do not abuse those rights, or use them to abuse others (by for example, restricting access to and selling earth's natural resources, which none have ever truly owned to begin with)?
Art gallery and homestead of Sue Robishaw and Steve Schmeck, creating and living a sustainable life in Michigan
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