Correcting an Error in a Recorded Real Estate Document

Errors in a deed may create uncertainty about the title and cause problems when the current owner tries to transfer the property at a later point. Executing and recording a correction document is an easy way to prevent this.

Once recorded, deeds become a permanent part of the public record. It is possible, however, to amend that record by adding a newly executed deed, usually called correction or corrective deed, deed of correction, or deed of confirmation. Such a document does not convey title on its own; instead, it corrects a specific error while confirming the transfer of property enacted by the original deed.

In order for the correction to be valid, it needs to refer to the prior instrument by indicating its execution and recording date, the place of recording, and the number under which the document is filed. It also must identify the error by type before supplying the actual correction. For the most part, the correction deed restates the information of the original deed, and all parties who signed that document must also sign the corrective instrument and have these signatures acknowledged by a notary.

A corrective deed is commonly used for minor mistakes, sometimes referred to as non-material changes. Examples of those are typographical errors, such as misspelled or incomplete names, missing or wrong middle initials, and omission of marital status, spouse’s signature, or vesting information. A correction deed can also amend defects in the execution or acknowledgement portion of the original deed.

In some states, it is possible to re-record the original deed and correct the errors directly on that document. This method often requires an additional page as cover page to allow room for the correction statement, the identification of the error, and reference to the previously recorded document. Depending on error type and gravity, re-acknowledgement may be needed as well. Be sure to check the state requirements and, when in doubt, seek legal counsel.

If the original grantor is not available to sign a correction deed, an affidavit of correction or scrivener’s affidavit might be the best option. Several states accept such documents, which serve as notification of an error in a recorded deed, but do not constitute a correction of the original deed. Affidavits are usually reserved for minor corrections and typographical mistakes, so-called scrivener’s errors. As such, they can be sworn by someone other than the original grantor, for example, by the preparer of the original deed or by an attorney who is familiar with the facts. In the latter case, it is advisable to state the reasons for the correction, as well as knowledge of the facts corrected, and to give evidence of notification of the original parties or their heirs.

Procedures for resolving more substantive defects, sometimes called material errors, vary among states, especially when such a correction constitutes a change in the legal description or the addition or removal of a name. Some states allow a corrective instrument to address these flaws, but others require a new deed of conveyance, often a quit claim deed, for material changes to a deed.

Changes affecting the legal description of a property are often sensitive in nature. Even in states that allow the use of a correction deed for this type of correction, it is a good idea to have the grantor and grantee sign it in order to assure valid title. Several states permit certain corrections of the legal description, such as errors transcribing courses and distances, errors incorporating a recorded plat or deed reference, errors in listing a lot number or designation, or omitted exhibits that supply the legal description of the property.

In conclusion, it is important that the records reflect the facts on the ground and contain accurate information in order to maintain a clear chain of title. Even a minor error or missing initial can call into doubt the identity of a title holder and warrant correction. Please contact the local recording office or an attorney with specific question