OpenJurist

How do you determine who has title to a property?

Sometimes, in the course of dealing with a piece of real estate, there may arise an issue of who owns it. Every state has its own way of recording ownership interest in real estate. One way of determining the owner of a piece of real estate is to call the local real estate tax office. The tax office should have a record of who they report as being the owner of the reed estate. Those records are, however, not always reliable. In order to determine the true owner or owners of a piece of reed estate you may need to have a title search done. There are title examiners or title insurance companies that ore available to do that for a fee. That is probably the only sure way to determine who all of the owners are of a piece of real estate as of a specific date.

A title examiner; in determining ownership interest, will check all of the various indices at the local courthouse (or other governmental office building where deeds and land records are maintained) to determine who the last person to have been deeded that property was. This may tell you who the title owner of the real estate is as of that date; but it does not tell you whether there could be any other persons that might have a right to claim some interest in that property. As such it may be necessary to do a historical search of the chain of title going back many years to determine who all the other title owners had been.

To do a thorough search of the title, it would be necessary to determine whether during the ownership interest of any of the title owners there had been any liens noted of record that might apply to the property. Liens may come in the form of tax liens, mortgage liens, deeds of trust, mechanics liens, or judgment liens. If there have been any such liens; it must be determined whether those liens have been properly released so that they no longer apply to the property.

If any of the title owners passed away during the period of their ownership of the property, it may be necessary to check the will index to determine whether their will is of record. If it is, then their will must be examined for what it indicates as far as the transfer of this property. If there is no will, additional searches at the courthouse or recorder's office will be necessary.

Suffice it to say that in many states the determination of the true owners of a piece of property can be very complex. If you are simply interested in general information as to ownership interest, reliance upon the tax records may be sufficient. If, however, you are contem­plating purchasing real estate or filing a legal action against the property owners, it is advisable to have an appropriate title search done of the property to make sure you are acquiring good title or suing the correct owners.

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