Conveying Real Estate Through a Power of Attorney

Image of a woman signing a legal document captioned: Power of Attorney for Real Estate

A power of attorney enables an agent (also called the attorney-in-fact) to conduct transactions on another person’s behalf.

The POA document often appears in the world of real estate transactions. A person (called the principal) might require a stand-in to sign financial documents, on account of absence or disability. A limited power of attorney can enable the agent to carry out any and all real estate transactions or even give an agent specific authority to sell one home (“for the sale of 123 Smith Avenue only”), and for a specified price. 

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You’ve Paid Off the Mortgage. What Happens Now?

image of money stacked next to a house captioned: You've paid off the mortgage. What happens now?

Congratulations! Paying off a mortgage is an impressive milestone.

Now that you have paid off all the debt on your property, your home state’s law will direct your lender to take certain actions. 

The lender will send you a certificate of satisfaction. This certificate, which the lender records in your home county, notifies the public that you have satisfied your obligation, and the lender has removed the lien from your property.

A few details of this process depend on what state your property is in, and whether your debt was secured through a deed of trust.

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Adding Your Spouse to the Deed

Image of a married couple in wedding attire standing on a porch - captioned: Adding your Spouse to the Deed

You’ve just gotten married, and already own a house in your own name. You want to share everything with your spouse, including your real estate, so adding their name to the title is part of being married, correct? Well … maybe. Much depends on the terms of your mortgage, and whether your spouse has serious credit issues. Before adding your spouse to the deed, speak with your attorney.

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Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Image showing person signed a deed with money on the table and a small house figure captioned: Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Most states and the District of Columbia impose a deed transfer tax when real property changes hands. This sales tax is based on the value of a given property. It applies to a transfer of full ownership from seller to buyer. It is also applied to any percentage of the property that is conveyed short of the entire property. Thus, if one co-owner relinquishes joint ownership in the entire property, the tax is calculated on half of the value.

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Remote Notarization of Real Estate Deeds

Image of a woman performing an online notarization of a real estate deed on a computer captioned remote notarization of real estate deeds

Today, many real estate documents are handled electronically. But it remains clear that notarizing a document, under the laws of all states, means witnessing a signature in real time. The notary’s witnessing role serves to verify to the public that the person who signs a paper has been personally identified, and freely signed the document.

Not to be deterred, technology is changing the way society defines witnessing. With the advancement of webcam technology and novel legal provisions, notaries are remotely witnessing signatures and verifying documents in several states. This new process is known as RON remote online notarization.

So far, reviews in the industry are mixed.

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Refusing to Accept a Deed

image of an unsigned deed captioned refusing to accept the deed

For a valid real estate deed conveyance, two key actions must occur:

  • The giver (called the grantor) must deliver it the recipient (called the grantee).
  • The grantee must accept it.

A Recipient May Refuse to Accept a Deed.

Circumstances are not always right for taking on new ownership and new responsibilities. Moreover, not every piece of real property is desirable. Even with a significant estimated value, it might have hidden liabilities.

Thus, the gift of a deed can, and sometimes should, be turned down.   

This can get difficult if the grantor has the conveyance recorded with the county anyway, without the grantee’s knowledge. The grantee will then be obliged to file a court petition to void the conveyance.

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What is the Chain of Title in Real Estate?

Image of a stack of papers with the question what is the chain of title in real estate.

In real estate, the chain of title is the history of the property’s ownership. When a property is sold, the title is transferred, and these transfers form the chain. Researching the chain of title is among the tasks performed by a title company when a buyer signs a contract to purchase a property. The chain of title for any property is found in the relevant county recorder’s office, and there’s no reason you can’t conduct your own search to determine the chain of title. All the information is in the public record. Keep in mind that state laws governing the recording of real estate transfers differ, so the chain of title process in one state may differ somewhat from the chain of title process in another.

Chain of Title Documents

Formal documents maintain the chain of title. The chain ends with the most recent document affecting the property. Types of documents included are:

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Removing Someone from a Real Estate Deed

Image of two people at a desk with real estate deed discussing removing one of them from the deed.

Removing someone from a deed—is it possible? The short answer: No.

Misconceptions and Realities

It is a misconception that someone can be “removed” from the deed.

Nor can a co-owner simply take away another party’s interest in a property by executing a new deed without that other party.

In short, no one can be passively removed from a title.

Even if an owner “added” someone else to the real estate deed previously, the first owner cannot reconsider and take the second person off the deed.

Why?

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The Quitclaim Deed and Fraudulent Real Estate Transactions

Image of a safe fashioned in the shape of a house with hand reaching to open- article discussing quitclaim deeds and their role in fraudulent real estate transactions.

Quitclaim deeds show up commonly in fraudulent real estate transactions. This type of deed fraud can impact elderly people, buyers purchasing real estate from strangers without warranty, renters who are paying someone who is not a legitimate owner, and anyone involved who might buy, sell, or own property.

Here, we examine how it happens and how to detect it.

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What Is a Quiet Title Action?

What is a Quiet Title Action?

A quiet title action is a special legal proceeding to determine rightful, legal property ownership. It is often a preventative or “friendly” lawsuit to ensure that no other parties have conflicting claims to a title, or to resolve an ambiguity. Depending on state law provisions, the plaintiff—that is, the party filing the complaint—may be the mortgage lender, a potential buyer, the legal title holder, or someone in actual possession of the property.

Prevailing in a quiet title action enables the rightful owner to get title insurance, to take a loan out on the property, and to convey the property free and clear of any cloud on the title.

When to File a Quiet Title Action

Whenever doubt or ambiguity arises as to ownership in a title search, the title company will not issue a title insurance policy. This means the property lacks marketable title. To obtain a mortgage loan, title insurance is necessary.

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