Continuing our series of three-minute law school lessons. The study of stuff. Property is any item, idea, or plot of land belonging wholly or severally, exclusively or jointly to an individual, group of individuals, or entities. Property belongs to you as long as you own it, unless someone takes it from you. Then it becomes their property if they hold on to it long enough...except that some rules of common law property prevent that from happening...but, then again, sometimes the rules encourage that kind of behavior. That's the study of Property! Confusing? Yes. Invigorating? No. Affects Everyone? Absolutely. Can make a stupid man rich? Check. (--see Realtors and Real Estate Attorneys.) Enjoy! First, a basic Property Principle: ownership.
  • Ownership
    • The legal right to a possession of a thing.
    • You generally maintain ownership of something by holding onto it longer than someone else or by being the first to hold onto it.
      • Remember the dude that caught the Barry Bonds HR Record Ball? He owned it because he grabbed it first.
      • Remember the property your great-great-grandpa owned in Oklahoma? He owned it because he grabbed it sooner than anyone else.
        • Note: this rule apparently only applied in Colonial times if you were a caucasian of European descent. See Manhattan Island and the rest of the United States of America.
    • While some men claim to own their wives (and vice versa), it's debatable whether or not someone can own another person under the above definition.
      • If any one person can make a claim to ownership of someone else, it would have to be that individual's parents. I mean, where did the genetic material come from? Who maintained and sustained the individual from the womb on into their early twenties? Who took possession of us first?
        • At best, we've been leased our lives, and owe it to our parents to be good tenants. Otherwise, they could evict us.
        • Note: Some kindly parents transfer their interest in us to our significant others at marriage. Some do not, however, and they leave messy ownership squabbles up and down the family tree.
With ownership out of the way, let's look at some of the guiding principles of property. The Law of Property is easily split into two categories--Real and Personal (a third, Intellectual Property, is its own technological beast). Personal Property
  • Things you own which can be moved around.
    • Examples:
      • iPods
      • Snowboards
      • Cars
      • Refrigerators
      • Law Degrees
      • Pirate Booty
      • Chocolate Bars
      • Refrigerated iPods
      • etc
    • That's about it. Personal Property is pretty easy law. You either own it, buy it, or steal it. Again, whoever holds onto it first or longest tends to get to keep it.
  • Land. Real Estate. The safest financial investment (until lately). Immovable property.
    • Still don't know why people call it Real Property. It's not like it's fake. It could come from the latin for "Royal," but that would be old, dated language that no one would use unless they wanted...to...impress...hmmm...
    • Real Property is worth its weight in paper money, especially if shiny things are found underneath it, like
      • Gold
      • Silver
      • Oil
      • Latex
      • Potatoes. Shiny ones.
      • Someone can take Real Property from someone else by holding onto it adversely for a requisite amount of time (5 years in California, 40 in Iowa, just for example) without the owner showing up and complaining about it.
        • This may sound funny or even unjust, but just imagine owning acres of land hundreds of miles away and never doing a thing with it. Law (and especially lawyers who practice law) abhors a wasted thing.
        • This is the only time you can hold onto something adversely and have everything turn out good for you, unless you're reading a Danielle Steel novel.
        • Just remember that, when endeavoring to adversely possess a plot of land, you should probably try to pay the property taxes and improve the plot. Oh, and don't let the real owner allow you to be on or use the property. If he or she tells you "It's OK that you're on Blackacre right now" you go ahead and tell them "No, it's not OK. I'm adversely possessing it. Bring it on." Otherwise, you'll lose your chance.
        • I should open a school for squatters.
    • Real Property is fun because:
      • You can lease it
      • You can sell it
      • You can buy it
      • You can split it
      • You can build things on it
      • You can make covenants with it
      • You can sue other people for it
      • You can do lots of things with it that you couldn't do without it.
That's all I have to say about Property. I apologize for it. It's not the most exciting area of law. I'll try and spice up the next one.

1 comment:

Mogan and Will said...

Perfect timing, Boyd! I came across this post during one of the WORST property classes we've had so far all year. Thanks for summing everything up in a way that I wholly and not jointly understand!