What is a Quiet Title?
A quiet title action is needed when a piece of real estate has been in the family for many generations, and the legal title to the real estate is in the name of deceased ancestor. The quiet title action is used to transfer the real estate to the living beneficiaries.
Step 1: Get a Lawyer
Get a lawyer because this process is convoluted and painful. The lawyer should have an office in the county where the real estate is located. They should also be familiar with real estate and probate law.
Step 2: Find the Vesting Deed
A vesting deed is a deed which states the current owner of the real estate. Sometimes the owner is your great, great, great, great grandfather. The vesting deed tells the lawyer who is the owner and the exact legal description of the real estate.
The best place to get the vesting deed is county recorder where the real estate is located. If you don’t know anything about the property, bring the latest real property tax bill with you.
Step 3: Survey for Raw Land
Things happen in 100 years. Old deeds have legal descriptions which describe trees in the area, stakes which were pulled out in 1950, and cow patches which have been converted into farmland.
A surveyor takes the deed and rewrites the legal description into modern language. GPS is often involved. If the property in not just raw land, you might not need the survey.
Step 4: Create a Family Tree
Hopefully you know your family well, because everybody needs to be on the family tree back until the date of the vesting deed. Those who are alive, those who died recently and those who have died long ago. The family tree tells the court who were the former owners, and who are the current owners of the real estate.
Step 5: Find ALL the Death Certificates
The court never assumes that someone is dead. The only way to prove someone is dead is with a certified copy of a death certificate. Death certificates are issued in the Office of Vital Records for each of the 50 states.
Just a warning, death certificates are not public knowledge. You must apply for each and every death certificate and also prove why you need it.
If the Office of Vital Records refuses to give you the death certificate, the court will have to order them to issue the death certificate. This happens, before the quiet title action can take place.
Step 6: Find Wills
As time goes on it is difficult to find old wills. Look for them though. If you find any, give them to the lawyer. The wills tell the court who inherited the property over time. If there are no wills, the court uses the ‘Law of Intestacy’, which is the default inheritance law.
Step 7: Give Everything to Lawyer
The lawyer will need everything. The lawyer needs the vesting deed, the survey (if needed), the family tree, the death certificates, and the wills.
If anything is missing the lawyer may have to ask the court to help you. The lawyer will also check the old court records to see if any probates were opened along the way. This help takes time and money.
Once everything is assembled, the lawyer will a file a petition with the Court in the county in which the real estate is located to quiet the title. That means that even though there are been a ton of owners over the years, now here is who should be the current owner(s).
Step 8: Judge Decides Owner
After the lawyer files the petition, the court will make its decision and determine the current owner(s) of the real estate. The Order tells everyone the legal owner(s) of the property. Only the legal owner(s) can sell the real estate.
Step 9: New Deed
After the Order is issued, the lawyer prepares the new deed to the property. This deed becomes the current vesting deed.
Step 10: Record Deed and Court Order
The new deed is not official until the lawyer records the vesting deed and the Court Order in the county in which the real estate is located. The recording process can take several weeks. The recorded deed will be sent back to the lawyer. The Court Order will probably stay with the County Recorder.
As you can see this is a very difficult process, with many complicated steps. Don’t try to this alone. Many families own real estate that has been in the family for generations and no one can sell it. Are you struggling with a piece of family owned property because you can’t sell it?