Q: My mother passed away over 20 years ago, after she had been divorced from my dad.

She purchased a house after she was divorced and my sister and I inherited it after she passed.

About 4 years ago, I was incarcerated but left my dad to look after my belongings. He paid all my bills for me with money that I left for him. Somehow in that period of time, the deed to our house was transferred over to him and his new wife.

He then knocked the house down and he built his own house on it. But I never got paid for the house or the land.

I would like to know what I need to do to get my land back or the money for the land. I guess the problem is that I really don’t want to hurt my dad but want to get some clarification as to how this was allowed to happen without my consent.

A: You were in a terribly vulnerable position while incarcerated. Unfortunately, with the little information you have sent me, it seems that either your sister or your dad must have forged your signature to transfer the title of the home.

When your mom passed away, you and sister became the owners of your mom’s home. If the paperwork was done properly, your sister’s name and your name should have shown up on the public records reflecting your ownership of the home.

When your dad “acquired” the property, he could only have obtained title in one of three ways and none of them would have been legal. The first way would have been if your sister sold or transferred the property to your dad and forged your signature on the deed. The second way would have been that your dad forged your sister’s and your signature on the deed and transferred the title to himself. And finally, he might have convinced your sister that you had agreed to deed him the property, forged your signature and had your sister sell or transfer the property to him.

You need to figure out what happened. Once you know what happened, you can investigate how to unwind this unfortunate and probably illegal transaction.

In many places, such as a local public library, you can access public records for individual properties on the web. You can search the home’s title by using the address or the tax parcel identification number (available at the tax assessors office if you don’t have a past tax bill handy). You can even order the document and download it onto your computer for a small fee.

Finally, you can go to the recorder of deeds office or other office that holds the property records in your county, and obtain a copy of the deed that transferred title of the home to your father.

Once you have a copy of the deed you can look it over and determine what you think might have happened. You will probably see that your signature was forged. Make sure you get copies of the documents that were used to transfer the title to your home.

Unfortunately, it seems that you left your father in charge of taking care of the property but he only took care of himself.

While you may not want to hurt your dad, it seems likely that you’ll find out he has hurt you financially, not to mention emotionally.

After that, it will be up to you to decide whether to hire an attorney to look into the transfer further or, if there was a fraud involved, to get the authorities involved. In addition to the legal issues involved, you may need to have a heart to heart talk with your sister and your father and hope that the truth comes out.

Published: Nov 7, 2006