If there ever was a negative facet of real estate that comes about on occasion, is when there are title problems on a given home that has been sold and waiting for the examining attorney to give his or her blessing on the quality of the title. I’ve been wrestling with two files that have title issues. Too many times people either consider themselves qualified in the land title department and in the end create even more problems than if they’d just left it alone. Many of the culprits causing title issues are banks. Lending institutions are quick to cash the check paying off one of their loans, but not always good about filing a mortgage or lien release with the County Recorder. Likely 90% of the general public living in Iowa don’t realize that their bank has to issue a release and file it with the County before the world considers their mortgages paid off.
Now we come to the even greater problems when unreleased loans are held with banks that no longer exist. With the bank closings, buyouts, and mergers, a mortgage could have been passed around to a half a dozen banks before it was paid off. And to make matters even worse, sometimes those unreleased mortgages belonged to deceased individuals. Another happening that can cause a huge title problem is when there has been a death with one of the title holders and the estate was not properly administered leaving the world to wonder who really has rightful ownership. Un-recorded contracts, quit claim deeds, and adjacent lands not being properly abstracted until some upstanding attorney happens to catch the mistake that was overlooked by a long since retired or deceased attorney. People are human and they do make mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes could have been avoided had they been more in the know of their actions.
Many extra hours are spent digging for answers and subsequently taking the quickest remedial steps to get a property’s title to clear. Most people can go to bed at night and sleep without worrying about a title problem on their existing home, but they also must take care not to allow anything to happen while in ownership to cause a title issue.
What I’ve noticed happening these past years are people deeding their properties to their children or relatives and not realizing some of the negative ramifications in doing so. Everyone wants to keep from paying taxes as well as nursing homes from getting all their assets once their savings are exhausted. I’d guess the best thing to do is either do nothing and let the cards fall where they may, or look to a very knowledgable attorney who knows all the pros and cons of estate planning. Just remember, when it comes to serious matters, you oft times get what you pay for in the end. I personally know a family who always considered themselves smarter than the average bear and looked down their noses at everyone not of their tribal stripe. Being familiar with some of the title transfers amongst themselves, I know fully well they will have one of the biggest clouds of title issues on a property when they go to sell it. They’re going to be paying a great deal of money to an attorney when it comes time to get it all corrected. Yes, sometimes what goes around comes around. In the midst of a stressful day I did get a good laugh. One of my clients asked me what someone here in Mason City looked like.
I simply said, “He has a long face and a mouthful of teeth.” His quick response was, “Can he eat corn through a picket fence?” That clever saying comes from the South.