No. 664.
Mr. Stevens to Mr. Blaine.

No. 107.]

Sir: In the dispatch of the Secretary of State, No. 98, of March 19, touching the claims of American citizens in this country, I am directed “to transmit information of any statute of limitations in Sweden or Norway, whereby titles to estates in dispute are quieted in a given time.” I have made the proper inquiries to be able to conform to this instruction with the following result:

Under the present law of Sweden, persons dying leaving property, real estate or moveable, heirs in foreign countries must apply within one year after publication by court. The heirs may get notice by seeing publication in Swedish newspapers or through parties. Failing to apply for the possession of the property within one year after publication by the court, the same goes to the heirs next of kin. The new law, which will go into effect January 1, 1882, allows twenty years for heirs to claim real estate; but moveable property not affected by new law.

Claims for debt on note or account run ten years. Under the law of 1835, still in force, claims on all kinds of moveable property terminate in ten years. All claims in litigation on real estate die in twenty years under the new law, which will go into effect January 1, 1882.

Present law as to real estate, heirs in foreign countries must claim in one year after publication by the court in Swedish newspapers. Said heirs in foreign countries failing to make their claims within the year, the property will belong to the heirs next of kin.

Under the new law which will go into effect January 1, 1882, twenty years, after publication by court, are allowed for heirs in foreign countries to claim real estate. If not claimed within said time, the property goes to next heirs of kin. But the new law makes no change in this regard as to moveable property, one year being the limit of time to make claim after the publication of the court.

In Norway, titles to estates in dispute, whether real estate or personal property, are quieted at the expiration of twenty years. This term of limitation, however, is not sufficient, if anybody has had his title to a real estate registered in the public record books.

Legal heirs living out of Norway must claim property of deceased persons, citizens of Norway, within one year and six weeks from the time they have been called in to make their claims, sub pœna prœclusi et perpetui silentii.

The Norwegian law of limitation dates from time immemorial, and [Page 1072]was expressly repeated in the statute-book still in force, of King Christian V of Denmark, which was published in 1687.

I have, &c.,


After I had finished the above dispatch I received, fortunately, a more complete and technical statement of the Swedish statutes of limitation from Judge Olivecrona, of the supreme court of Sweden, and the same I herewith inclose. I think correct answers to the inquiries of the Secretary of State can readily be found in either of the statements forwarded.

J. L. S.
[Inclosure in No. 107.]


According to the statute law or code of 1734, ch. 15, section of intestacy, the general time of limitation (proscriptio) for the right of succeeding to the property of a person deceased without a will is night and year.
The right of succeeding to property left by an intestate is limited to night and year a tempore mortis defuncti.
When a man dies leaving lineal descendants, Swedish subjects, name known, living in a country where Swedish subjects cannot inherit property.
When a man dies leaving descendants or ancestors or collateral heirs, name known, subjects to a foreign government, and living in a country where Swedish subjects may inherit property.
When no heir, name known, will in night and year claim the inheritance. But this time of limitation is of no legal effect, if in all these cases the heir can prove a legal impediment (justa causa).
The right of succeeding to property left by an intestate is limited to night and year (a tempore scientio) from the day the claimant gets knowledge of the property left.
When the heir (next of kin, proximus heres) is a Swede, name and residence known though he be settled so far away that he cannot get knowledge of the inheritance.
When proximus heres is a Swede, name and residence known, though he may be living abroad.
In these both cases the tribunal must give him notice of the property left by his deceased parent or relation.
The right of succeeding to property left by an intestate is limited to ten years (a tempore ultimo publicationis) from the last publication (three publications) in the Official Gazette of Sweden (Post-och Inrikes Tidningar).

When the heir is a Swede, name known, but residence unknown.—The statute law or code of 1734 had fixed the said time to twenty years, but by an act of 30th May, 1835, the term was changed to ten years.

V. The act (Forordning) of 16th June, 1875, prescribes that every transfer of title of property concerning real estates shall be duly inscribed in the Registry of titles to landed estates (lagfartsbok).

The act of 14th May, 1805, prescribes that when a man bona fide gets possession of a real estate without the consent of the legal owner (dominus), the owner may claim the possession (vendicare) in night and year from the day he got knowledge of the unlawful possession and was able to claim his right; and his legal heirs have the same right within twenty years from the day of his decease.

Now, the Swedish Parliament of 1881 has approved a new bill, laid before the Parliament by the government, conforming to which bill the time of limitation (proscriptio) for all claims on real estates is fixed to twenty years, so that if a bona fide possessor has got his title of transfer inscribed in the registry of titles of landed estates (lagfartsbok), and has had possession of the estate without interruption for a time of twenty years after the inscription of his title in the said registry, every claim is void.