Consider this scenario: Your family member purchased a home. They lived in it. They raised a family in it. They spent most of their professional career in it – and then they moved out. They maintained ownership of the home while renting it out, occasionally leaving it vacant.
In this scenario, when your family member passes away, they still own the home. Right? Well, sure – as long as there aren’t any “wild deeds” out there that could put that ownership at risk. There are some important questions that need to be answered to defend the original ownership in this case.
What is a wild deed?
A wild deed is a fully legal and operational deed that follows all legal guidelines establishing an owner of a property – but what makes them different is the way in which they violate the “chain of title.” A wild deed can either establish a separate chain of titles or breaks the chain by fabricating a sale from the actual owner at some point.
When do they come into play?
Wild deeds are most commonly discovered in probate or when an owner attempts to sell their property. In both scenarios, the actual owner of the home must first be determined before it can be transferred either to an heir or a buyer.
How are they handled?
A wild deed may be discovered during this process, and the handling of the deed will be different in both scenarios. In probate, the wild deed can be set aside when something such as a blatantly forged signature or sale after the death of the owner is discovered.
Otherwise, a quiet title action will be necessary to clarify the ownership prior to the sale. In this case, the owner is attempting to “quiet” the wild deed and clearly establish their own so the sale can proceed.
How does this impact the chain of title?
The chain of title for a property is a record designating the history of ownership. This necessary documentation ensures there are no ownership disputes. However, when a wild deed is present the chain of title is broken fraudulently.
When a wild deed is successfully defeated through probate or a quiet title action, the wild deed is not stricken from the record. Instead, the wild deed is “set aside” and noted in the chain of title as a fraudulent deed. This showcases that the wild deed has already been dealt with through the proper legal channels and won’t need to be addressed again.
Can a wild deed ever be considered valid?
Unfortunately, not every wild deed can be set aside easily. Because a wild deed is recognized as a legal sale of a property, the new owner can decide to sell the property again. The same is true for subsequent owners and, eventually, a wild deed can change hands enough times to be considered valid.
If someone pays market value for a home from a fraudulent owner then they may be recognized as a bonafide purchaser. This person cannot reasonably be held accountable for what they are unaware of and ownership becomes in dispute. In order to remedy this, every single sale of the property since the very first wild deed was formed would need to be dealt with. This means if the property has been sold ten times after the formation of the wild deed you will need to pursue each and every owner on the chain of title during that period to find out where the initial fraudulent transaction took place. Then, you would need to dispute this original transaction and each of the subsequent purchases in court.
If the property is sold well below market value then it’s unlikely the wild deed would ever be legally recognized, clearing the way for you to set that deed aside.
What should you do?
Your first step if you discover a wild deed on your property or the property held within a loved one’s estate is to contact an attorney. This could be a months-long process to clarify the ownership and will take extensive legal research to handle.At Pence Law Firm, we have helped our clients set aside wild deeds and protect ownership both in probate and during the sale. Contact us and let us protect what you’ve grown.