Uninsured deeds are always a cause for concern. Recently one of our commercial escrow officers was working on the sale of vacant land. The buyer was purchasing the property to develop into multifamily housing. The sale was more than $1,000,000. Title at the Commitment Date was vested in:
Parker Carr and Heirs and Beneficiaries of the Estate of Kitty Carr, deceased, as Tenants in Common
Although Kitty Carr had passed away many years prior, probate for her estate was just opened. Then right before closing, a fully executed deed transferring title was presented to title. That deed was not part of the insured transaction at hand, but title was being asked to update the Commitment for Title insurance reflecting the grantee and record the deed as an accommodation before the sale closed.
Brooke McCranie, Escrow Officer for Chicago Title Company in Tampa, Florida, immediately contacted the seller's attorney for more information. Although this deed was not yet recorded, it fell within the scope of an uninsured deed. She reviewed the signature on the deed against other documents executed by the seller, as evidence the grantor executed the deed properly.
Brooke also reviewed the notarial certificate and was unable to verify the notary was approved by the Company. She asked the seller's attorney for a copy of Parker Carr's identification. A copy of an expired passport and driver's license was provided, but the signatures did not match.
The Company agreed to record the deed if Carr executed a new one in front of a Company approved notary. He would also need to provide valid identification or a credible witness acknowledgement. Carr's attorney explained he was currently out of the country.
Brooke provided the attorney with instructions for his client to schedule an appointment with the U.S. Consulate in the foreign country. The attorney refused to pass the information on to his client. Instead, the attorney called another underwriter in the Company in an effort to pressure the Company to accept the previously executed deed. It did not work.
In the end, the deal was moved to a competitor, who agreed to record the deed as an accommodation and close the sale. We do not know why Carr could not execute a new deed, but we do know that our risk mitigation policies are in place to protect our insured.
Brooke examined the deed against the signatures and identification that was provided to her, and it was unclear whether the deed was executed by Carr. She consulted with Underwriting Counsel, who agreed the signing requirements she demanded must be met in order to ensure the sale and protect the integrity of the chain of title.
It is our very own front-line workers, escrow officers such as Brooke, who assist in protecting the ownership rights to real property in America. For this, she is being rewarded $1,500. Way to go Brooke!
Article provided by contributing author:
Diana Hoffman, Corporate Escrow Administrator
Fidelity National Title Group
National Escrow Administration