Question: At least 30 years ago my grandfather bought a lot in a subdivision called Cochise College Park in southeastern Arizona. I think that he paid $5,000 cash for this lot. Anyhow, my grandfather passed away several years ago and my mother recently passed away. The bill for the property taxes is only a few dollars a year and we have always paid the property taxes. Is it worth the cost to probate this lot? Is the lot even worth anything?
Answer: Unfortunately, the lot may not be worth enough to even continue paying the property taxes. The reason is that lots sold in the Cochise College Park subdivision generally had no roads and no utilities such as water, electricity, and phone. You should contact a probate lawyer and an appraiser in southeastern Arizona who should have some experience with lots that were sold in the Cochise College Park subdivision years ago. If the lot purchased by your grandfather has any value, your grandfather’s heirs could acquire title to the lot.
By way of history, in the 1970s an individual named Ned Warren developed numerous subdivisions in Arizona, including subdivisions still basically worthless today like Cochise College Park, but also subdivisions which ultimately became very valuable like Prescott Valley (in the 1970s Prescott Valley was primarily populated by a herd of antelope!). There was no regulation of subdivisions in Arizona in those days. Mr. Warren, who became known as the “Godfather of Arizona Land Fraud,” should also be known as the “Godfather of Subdivision Regulation,” because he is the primary reason that today there is regulation of subdivisions in Arizona. Mr. Warren advertised these worthless subdivisions, allegedly “within shouting distance of the Grand Canyon,” in magazines such as Reader’s Digest all over the United States and in Europe. Mr. Warren was convicted of extortion relating to land fraud. On the day before his CPA was scheduled to testify at Mr. Warren’s trial, his CPA was murdered in a parking garage on Central Avenue in Phoenix. (This murder was never solved, but was believed to be committed by two mobsters from Detroit or Chicago.)
For those who long for the good old days, at the same time that Mr. Warren was the Godfather of Arizona Land Fraud, the Commissioner of the Arizona Department of Real Estate was allegedly murdered after being accused of corruption with Mr. Warren (plus accused of selling real estate broker’s licenses for $500 without requiring attendance at classes, or even a test!); and the Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles was fatally injured when his car was bombed as a reprisal for his expose of land fraud activities (whose murder has never been solved).