An unincorporated association is a voluntary group of persons organized by mutual consent to promote a common enterprise by mutual consent to promote a common enterprise or objective. It may or may not have written articles, constitution or charter, and it is referred to by a common or association name.
Unincorporated associations are basically divided into two groups:
- Associations organized for profit purposes:
- Common law partnerships (as distinguished from statutory partnerships).
- Joint ventures (see "Joint ventures" section 10.04).
- Joint stock companies.
- Business trusts or Massachusetts trusts (see "Business trusts" section 2.28).
Legal Status Of Unincorporated Associations
At common law, unincorporated associations were not considered legal entities and, consequently, without capacity to acquire, hold or transfer legal title to real property in the association's name.
In several states, this position has been modified either by statute or case law. However, it must be noted that these modifications have been limited to certain forms of unincorporated associations and that they differ from state to state.
The law of the state where the land is located controls and determines the right, if any, of an unincorporated association to acquire, hold and convey title in its own name.
Statutory Approaches To Unincorporated Associations
In states, where the entity theory persists in relation to real property ownership, a conveyance is void if the grantee is not a duly qualified legal entity. However, a number of state jurisdictions have recognized in some unincorporated associations a quasi corporate existence, thus enabling certain unincorporated associations such as churches or charitable organizations to take, hold and convey real property in the church's or association's name.
In some states, in order to circumvent the inconvenience caused by the lack of an association being a legal entity and consequently having no legal capacity to hold title to real property, title is taken in the names of the officers or trustees and they hold legal title in trust for the individual members of the association. Questions involving the continuity of authority, in the case of change of officers or trustees or death or disassociation of such parties from the association, are always present and must considered before committing to insure.
In some other states, a grant to an unincorporated association in its name may be construed as a grant to the members of the association, the members' interest being collective and not individual.
Finally, in a few states, if the unincorporated association has a charitable objective, any title acquired by the association is considered to have established legal title in the trustees.
Title Considerations Pertaining To Transfers By Unincorporated Associations
Where title is held or to be held in the name of an unincorporated association, state law must be researched in order to determine whether, first, the conveyance can be made by the association and, second, the manner in which such a conveyance can be made. In some cases, title may be held in the name of a certain unincorporated association, the rule may not necessarily apply to every unincorporated association.
Where title is held in the name of the officers or trustees of the unincorporated association, any conveyance by said parties must be adequately supported with documentation relating to the identity and authority of said officers or trustees to execute the conveyance or encumbrance of the property.
Where under state law title is considered to be vested in the members jointly, the active members of the unincorporated association as trustees who must then unanimously authorize any conveyance.