Q: If someone puts your name on a deed without your knowledge, is it legal?
A: Let’s start with the concept of a gift. If I want to give you a gift, I can buy it and then give it to you. If you accept the gift, you become the owner of the gift.
If a person decides to give a gift of real estate to someone, they can purchase that property and deed it to someone else. But that alone will not be sufficient to transfer title to the property to the recipient. The person receiving the real estate as a gift must do something to accept it.
If someone simply records a document transferring title to a second person, the document would be legal but would not transfer ownership of that title without some form of affirmative acceptance by the person receiving the property.
In most states there are additional documents that are signed by the former owner of and the new owner of the real estate. If there is a purchase, the new owner receives the deed, obtains a mortgage, receives the keys and garage door openers and changes the utilities in the home to their own name.
If there is no form of acceptance, express or implied, the recipient will not have acquired title to the property.
Frequently, people ask whether they can quitclaim their timeshare interests back to the developer. If the developer does not accept the transfer, the owner will still be responsible for all of the costs and expenses associated with the timeshare property.
If, on the other hand, you’re asking whether someone can put your name on a deed to try to transfer your ownership in a piece of property, that document would need your signature. If it does not have your signature, it would not transfer your interest.
If the signature is forged, you would still be the owner of the property but would have a mess on your hands trying to prove the illegal transfer, among other issues. For real property to be transferred, generally there must be a document that transfers title from the current owner to the new owner. That document must be signed by all owners of that property.
In some cases, a property can be transferred by court order or other legal mechanisms that would not require the owner to sign the deed. For practical purposes, however, most real estate transfers are undertaken with all of the current owners executing the document that will transfer ownership of real estate from them to a new owner.