Posts Tagged ‘Deeds’


Home owners are being targeted for a simple, yet effective scam. At least two companies are offering to send copies of “grant deeds” for a charge of $86. They recommend that homeowners obtain this deed in order to confirm their ownership in the property. Yet, these public records are readily available for almost no cost.

Why Do Many Officials Call This A “Scam?”

These companies send official looking notices that often include warnings of late fees, compliance response deadlines, or the phrase FINAL NOTICE. While these sales pitches are not illegal, they are deceptive. As the Lake County Recorder of Deeds in the Chicago area noted: “It is not against the law, but it breaks the spirit of the law . . . It is very, very deceptive.” Officials Warn Homeowners of Deed Scams, Chicago Tribune.

The companies often charge $86 for the deed but also include a $35 late free for not meeting a fictional deadline. It is only in the fine print that they disclose that this is not a bill and that you could receive the same information from the County Recorder (or register of deeds).

Deeds Can be Obtained Inexpensively or Free

In fact, copies of deeds, mortgages, or any recorded document may be obtained from your local Wisconsin Register of Deeds office, for a very nominal fee. Generally the fees are $2.00 for the first page, and $1 for each page thereafter. Deeds are usually one or two pages.

In addition, homeowners should have received a copy of their deed from their title company when they purchased. Homestead Title and many other title companies will provide a duplicate to their customers at no charge.

Homestead Title Company is always happy to assist Dane County homeowners with such requests.

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I’m a Realtor and my buyers just got married after closing and want to know if they need to change anything on the title of the house. What should I tell them?

This is a dangerous question to answer without treading into the realm of legal advice. The simple answer is: your buyers don’t need to do anything — marriage doesn’t change the fact that they jointly own the property.  But, the deeper question likely being asked is, “How should I hold title now that I’m married.”  This is a legal question and should only be answered by an attorney.

When two or more people acquire title to real estate, their rights can be established by important language on the deed. For instance, unmarried individuals could designate their rights as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. Similarly, married individuals may want to own the property with survivorship rights so that the property will automatically transfer to the surviving spouse when one spouse passes away.

These designations have very significant legal meanings and can determine who has ownership rights upon a sale or at death. These choices are not simple, require an analysis of a number of factors, and most importantly, constitute legal advice.

Many lenders, Realtors, and title professionals tell all married buyers, “You should take the property as survivorship marital property – everyone does that.” This may be good advice for the majority of people. But, for the few married individuals who have good reason not to make this choice, this is not only bad advice, it could constitute legal malpractice.

Indeed, there are a multitude of reasons that married individuals might not want survivorship rights, including:

  • They have a premarital agreement,
  • They may be using funds for the purchase that they wish to keep separate,
  • One or the other of the spouses has children from another marriage
  • There is a will or estate plan in place
  • They have or will soon have inheritance
  • Many other factors

The analysis of these and other facts is a purely legal function that should not be undertaken by non-attorneys. The majority of married couples do opt for survivorship marital property, after consulting with an attorney. Nevertheless, this does not mean that non-attorneys should assume that this choice is right for everyone.

The Realtor, lender, or title company that is asked the question, “how should the buyer take title” should answer:

The buyer should consult an attorney to determine what is best for their given facts and circumstances. I am not an attorney and cannot provide that kind of advice.

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