Lawyer's Advice

By Edith Lank

June 18, 2017 5 min read

Edith: You wrote that it would be "simplest" for the reader to contact an attorney to see whether a deed had been recorded. Perhaps, but it may also be more expensive. It could be simple for the reader to go to the county or some other appropriate local registry/reporting office and ask a clerk for some assistance, or trying to muddle their way through to find a copy of the deed on file. I don't think any clerks are really happy about providing assistance to the public. But I'd like to think that the clerk would help guide someone to the right document if they were to come in on a quiet day.

I am concerned because homeowners get mail solicitations that state that they can get certified deeds for only $75 or $99 or more. These, as you know, are unnecessary because merely having a deed on file is sufficient. The cost of these schemes is exorbitant, particularly since they can go to the public office and get one for the cost of copying. — L. S. R.

Answer: What you say is true, counselor. These days, the public records office in most counties can even be searched from home by those with moderate internet skills.

In that particular situation, though, there was a specific question as to whether that deed had ever been recorded. I had no way of knowing whether my reader would be able to "muddle through" the public records. I still say it was simplest to have a lawyer investigate.

And, of course, you're right about those official-looking offers to furnish certified copies. They're not exactly illegal; they're a scam and a waste of money. Filing the new deed is a standard part of normal settlement procedures, and nothing else is needed.

Senior Homeowner

Dear Edith: I appreciated your reply to the 70-year-old woman thinking of buying a home. I am 66. Three years ago, I bought a large, very liveable house in a small town. It needed some basic repairs, which are mostly done. Now I am on to updates and changing the decor. It hasn't been that difficult, and I'm finding it enjoyable. Many of my acquaintance are currently selling the big houses in which they raised their kids.

I'd add my encouragement to that woman. Do what feels right for you, and don't worry. You can always make another choice if you need to later. — S. K.

Answer: Thanks for the advice. You're the same age as my older son, so I think of you as one of the kids, not a senior — but your opinion is welcome.

Selling the Farm

Dear Edith: If your reader A. M. lives where I think she does, please advise her to just put a "for sale" sign in the farmyard. She will have the Amish farmers in the area lining up to buy. Their population is expanding, and they are always looking to purchase tillable farms. They won't even care about that faulty wiring! — D. C.

Answer: A.M. never said just where that inherited farm was located, but your advice is interesting. Thanks for writing.

Good News

A few weeks ago, I answered that reader whose in-laws had long ago given them land on which to build a home and lent them cash for construction with a mortgage since paid off. She was concerned about how they'd prove ownership when they were ready to sell. Yesterday, another note came from her.

Dear Edith: Good news. Some years back, we acquired our own fireproof safe through a PBS fundraising auction. In our busy lifestyle, the years slipped by, and the safe slipped my mind as well. Buried below many birth certificates and other important documents were the original deed, and even a few maps. As you wrote, the satisfaction document was never filed. Thanks for the peace of mind. — K. L. A.

Answer: Again, there's no need to be concerned about the satisfaction of a mortgage document if the mortgage was never filed in the public records office in the first place. But you may want to take one last precaution.

You and your husband became legal owners of that land (and the house you built on it) the moment that deed was placed in your hands. To head off complications, a copy of the document should have been promptly filed in your county public records office.

So, you have one last task: Investigate whether the deed was ever recorded. If it wasn't, take it over and enter it yourselves, or have your attorney do it. You'll have to do that if you ever want to sell anyhow.

Contact Edith Lank at, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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Deducting Interest

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