In the world of real estate law, deeds frequently must be corrected. In fact, many property owners will eventually be faced with the task of making alterations to their deeds, and most will not know how to go about doing it. That is our topic for today, so we’ll start with the basics…
What Is A Deed?
It’s important that we answer this basic question up front. Deeds, also called titles, represent ownership of a property. Outlined in every deed are the exact specifications and details of ownership for the corresponding property.
It’s important to note that when deeds are recorded, they are public documents, on record for anybody to track down and read if they feel compelled to do so. At first glance this might seem like a breach of privacy, but it’s actually for your own protection. If your deed is not recorded publically, your ownership may be challenged. Also, your deed affects more than just your own property; the adjacent properties are also sometimes subject to specifications outlined in your deed. These property owners sometimes need to be able to reference your deed in case of a dispute.
Why Would You Ever Need To Change Your Deed?
There are a few scenarios where this issue comes into play. We will walk through a few of them now.
Scenario #1: Disputes Between Properties
It is often the case that deeds were written hundreds of years ago and specifically reference facets of the property that no longer exist. These sorts of ambiguities from that past can cause issues in the present. This will most often come into play when the exact location of the boundary line between two properties is not known. If there is a dispute over property lines between you and your neighbor, you will have to file an action to quiet title. “Quiet title” is legal way of saying that a court will set the record straight.
Scenario #2: Ownership By Now-Liquidated Businesses
Perhaps you started a business, and purchased property in the business's name. In that case, the business is the owner of the property, not you individually. If your business is later dissolved, it still remains the legal owner of the property, even if you provided the purchase money. Can you transfer title into your name? What are the pitfalls you need to be aware of?
Scenario #3: Jointly Owned Properties
Suppose that you and another person decided to purchase a property together. You will share joint-ownership of that property with them. But what happens if the other person dies? They will probably have heirs who will now inherit their share of the property. That means that you are now a joint owner with heirs that you may not like, or even know. These heirs may never have even seen the property, but they now have legal claim to it nevertheless. Or what if your joint-owner simply decides that they no longer want their interest in the property? Changes to the deed will need to be made. But there are a number of issues you need to address.
Scenario #4: Clerical Errors
Imagine that you bought a property 15 years ago, but now you want to sell it. As your prepare to put the property on the market, you look at the deed only to discover that your name is misspelled, or that some other crucial detail was botched by the person who recorded the deed all those years ago. It might seem trivial, but when it comes to real estate law, every little detail matters. You will need to have your deed altered.
How Can I Change My Deed?
Put the whiteout away! You can't just edit your deed—there is a very specific process that must take place before any alteration to the deed can be made. And there are many other considerations to account for, such as whether and how your proposed change might affect others, cause tax problems for you, or impair the rights of creditors. Remember, deeds are often public documents. They affect you, and often your neighbors, creditors, and others.
If you want to change your deed, you will sometimes need to present the alterations you want to make in court. If everything goes according to plan then a court order will be issued to reform your deed. Your next step will be to record your judgment in the chain of title so that the public is placed on notice as to the change in your property right, and to arrange for a revision of the deed. To do this, you’ll have to take your court order to the Register of Deeds.
This process is not something that you can usually do alone. You will need to hire a real estate attorney to guide you through and protect your interests in court. But there’s good news: we can help you!
Do You Need To Reform Your Deed?
If you live in Middle Tennessee area and need to make changes to your deed, we are here to help! Get in touch with us today!