So you’ve inherited real estate with your brother. He’s willing to sell you his half of the estate. He’s family. You pay him in cash. So now what do you do? You get him to sign a deed, right? It’s just a deed, you can type it up, there’s forms online, why go to an attorney to have him type it up (and knowing attorneys, they’re going to talk you into getting title insurance), he’s family, what can go wrong?
So you are about to take a shortcut on Real Estate Title, let me share a little story. Once upon a time—no, scratch that, this is no fairytale. Unfortunately what I’m telling you is a true story in Florida. The names have been changed, but the situation is real and ongoing.
This story begins with a set of grandparents. Let’s call them Bob and Sally. Sally died, leaving the house to Bob, and then Bob died shortly thereafter. Bob had a will that left the house to Bob’s son and daughter, we’ll call them Jack and Jill. Seems simple enough, but wait-there’s more.
Jill had agreed previously to purchase all of Jack’s interest in their father’s (Bob’s) estate. Because Jack was her brother, a handshake and a hug was all they had to solidify their agreement. They would take care of the legal paperwork later. “We’re family, what could go wrong?” she said. Some months later, Jack unexpectedly becomes ill and goes into the hospital.
Shortly thereafter, Jack dies.
Jill decides to sell the property, and then realizes in order to get this property in her name so she can sell it, she is now going to have to pay for a probate—penny-wise dollar-foolish! When the probate was complete, Jill was designated as the personal representative and Jack’s wife and her two children would get Jack’s share of the money for the sale of the home.
So Jill lists the property and finds a buyer.
The buyer insists on getting title insurance so a title search was ordered. Title search came back squeaky clean and closing was set. A simple happy ending to what could have been a very complicated situation, except for, prior to closing, a young lady by the name of Jackie surfaces and claims to be the biological daughter of Jack. Talk about sliding home and missing the plate entirely!
Right / Wrong / or Indifferent-it doesn’t matter! Jackie felt that she had rights to seek financial interests in her father’s estate.
Had this closed and Title Insurance issued ( thank heavens it didn’t!), we would have paid a Title Claim to the Biological Child either in legal fees incurred to defend the title, or given her the money she needed to make her go away.
Did the Title Examiner miss something?
No. No matter how many times you look at the Title Search, you can’t see what’s not there.
Was it the Probate Attorney’s fault for not asking about other heirs?
In the end, it doesn’t matter! If you are the Owner, you are stuck with the problem!
I don’t care how many times you look at a Title Search and the Title Search looks great, you can still have problems for things not recorded in the public records. Shortcuts on real estate title can bring unnecessary hardship on you and your family.
Whenever you take title to real estate, get title insurance, no matter if you’re inheriting a piece of property, someone gives it to you, no matter if it comes from your pastor, your brother, your father, your best friend, your son’s wet nurse—crap happens! Unless you’re independently wealthy and have a slush fund with my brother, Rusty’s name on it (he’s an attorney by the way) get title insurance.
This is story 283 in my book of 1001 reasons to get title insurance.