Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In Deeds

A small but steady area of practice for my office revolves around deed preparation. Washington is a state where limited practice officers (LPO's) prepare the vast bulk of deeds, mainly through their employment with title companies. Apparently, there are an ever increasing number of companies even in the mortgage industry that would appear to prefer working with an attorney. Over the course of doing a couple hundred deeds in three or four different contexts, I'd like to offer the following thoughts and warnings:

-You cannot circumvent the State of Washington's land use laws by just going out and filing a deed without doing the appropriate platting and other procedure. Yes, I've seen it tried.

-Your elderly parent or grandparent may or may not be competent to quitclaim you anything, transfers can result in medicaid qualification problems for all parties and charges of undue influence.

-The doctrine of constructive trust may apply if you are holding title for someone else and will most likely legally complicate your affairs rather than simplify them.

-Because a successive deed fails to convey every easement or encumbrance previously granted in the chain of title, this does not necessarily extinguish the provisions of previous deeds.

-In general, transfering multiple parcels of land that are not part of large subdivisions, is probably not worth its savings in deed preparation relative to the time it takes to tease out confusing language. Deed preparation is relatively inexpensive. Spend the time and money up front and it will save you or your successors cash in the long run.

-Remember that a Real Estate Excise Tax affidavit will need to be filed and that you may need to provide documentation to qualify for an exemption.