Deeds for real estate are recorded at the county clerk’s office to “put the world on notice” as to who owns the property. If you and your parents are talking about transferring the home, it would be a good idea to first order a title search through a Title Insurance Company to confirm the state of the title and the absence of liens.
Suppose that your great aunt owned a house jointly with her sister, your grandmother. Grandma lived in the house. Grandma had a daughter before she married your Grandpa. She and your grandpa used the property as their marital home. Then she died, and he continued to live there. He wants to give the property to his son (her stepson). He can’t find any deeds, but is certain that he owns the property, because Grandma told him years ago that she owned it and had added his name to the Deed.
Or suppose that Grandma acquired a house as an inheritance from her aunt, then married and added your grandfather’s name to the Deed, then died leaving him as surviving owner; then perhaps he bought an adjacent property, demolished the house, built a new house on the adjacent lot, added his only son’s name to one of the properties as a joint owner, maybe got a home equity loan to provide some cash. Grandpa also had some creditor problems at some point. Grandpa moved to a nursing home, and your Dad has been renting out the property. Now your father tells you that since he’s getting on in years, he (your Dad) wants to “protect the house” by giving it to you.
Can Dad “just do a quick claim deed?” Sure. It’s legally known as a “quit claim deed,” actually. In the first example, Grandma may only have owned 1/2 the property – the rest may still be in her sister’s estate. And her interest may still be in her own estate — Grandpa may not even be the owner. In the second example, what does Dad lawfully own, and what can he lawfully transfer to you? He may only own a portion of one lot. The titles may have merged and he may own half of the two lots. There may be old creditor’s judgment liens against the property. Or he may be inadvertently transferring Grandpa’s interest, which could cause havoc with Grandpa’s personal situation.
Forewarned is forearmed. By ordering a title and judgment search, a property owner will make sure that they are transferring a clear title to their beloved family member, rather than transferring a set of legal problems to them.
For more information check out http://www.finkrosner.com/articles/real-estate-transfers.html
Call us to help you evaluate pros and cons of real estate transfers — 732-382-6070.