Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action
October 25, 2021
Quiet Title Actions
Problems with real estate transfers can hold up the probating of a loved one’s estate. Beneficiaries who are depending on their inheritances can find access to those assets blocked by clouds the titles of real property within the estate. When that happens, your estate may need a quiet title action to set the record straight and allow your personal representative or trustee to transfer the property properly.
What is a Quiet Title Action?
A quiet title action is a form of real estate litigation that resolves a dispute over claims on a piece of real property. It can involve:
- Competing ownership claims
- Encumbrances and licenses to use property
- Security interests by lenders or mortgage companies
Any time someone claims to have a right to real property, it can “cloud” the title and make it difficult or impossible to sell the property. A quiet title action can “quiet” that claim by clarifying and resolving any outstanding property issues, paving the way for the property to be sold.
Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action
When a piece of property has been in the family for years, or a loved one dies without fully documenting their financial situation, it may take a quiet title action to put all those issues to rest and allow the family to move on. Here are some common reasons an estate may need to file a quiet title action:
Missing Heirs & Undiscovered Wills
If your loved one’s estate passes through probate – either by a will or the intestate process – their property may be passed on to a class of people and their descendants. There are cases every year where unknown cousins emerge to claim an interest in property after it has been distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries. In other cases, a long-lost will may surface giving an intended beneficiary a claim to a title that had long-since passed to the deceased’s intestate heirs. A quiet title action can resolve these claims without needing to reopen the estate.
Will Contests Over Real Property Distributions
In other cases, the known heirs to an estate may file a will challenge or probate dispute over how the assets of that property are distributed. For example, one beneficiary could argue that a piece of property was transferred to him or her before the deceased died, removing it from the estate entirely. A quiet title action can investigate and resolve those claims.
Errors in Public Records
Quiet title actions can also resolve any procedural issues that come about because of mistakes in the transfer of property including typos on deeds. If legal descriptions or plot numbers don’t match, it can keep a personal representative from transferring the property. A quiet title action can fix the discrepancies and allow the transfer to go forward.
Unknown Liens and Security Interests
When the estate is being distributed, a title company can sometimes uncover unknown liens and security interests owned by mortgage companies, creditors, or even contractors. These balances must be addressed or paid off (they may not always continue past the deceased’s death), and the lien discharged before closing. A quiet title action can resolve the outstanding lien and remove the cloud from the title, so closing can occur.
Public and Private Easements
An easement to the government for power lines, sidewalks, or lakeshore access, or a private company for a wind turbine can all create clouds on a title as well. Heirs and beneficiaries need to know the contracts connected to the land they inherit. A quiet title action can uncover these hidden easements and the terms of the contracts that control them.
What to Do if There is a Problem Transferring Probate Property
When title issues arise on property belonging to an estate, the personal representative or trustee is wise to consult with a real estate attorney, as well as their estate administration attorney. Often, a real estate attorney will have access to tools, like a quiet title action, that are not available in probate court. These tools can resolve the title issue relatively quickly and allow the family’s beneficiaries to receive their inheritances sooner than through the probate court.
At Lachman King, our experienced real estate attorneys have been helping trustees and estates resolve their real property probate disputes for years. Our team will meet with you to explain your rights, and help you make the right call for developing and using your lakeshore property. Contact us today to set up a meeting.