Q: I am paying my ex-husband for his share of my house. I still owe him $23,000, which is due in one lump sum. I already hold title to the property. Can I get title insurance at this point? And, if so, from what company?
I had a title search done just before I made the first payment to him, but am concerned that he may have incurred additional liens against my property. Is there any other way to protect myself from debts he may have incurred? Two lawyers I consulted have been little or no help in this matter. Thank you.
A: Good for you for wanting to make sure that your ex-husband hasn’t laid any little financial landmines for you. However, you generally cannot buy title insurance on a property that you already own. And, title insurance would not protect you against liens he incurred against the property after the date the original title insurance policy was issued.
If you’ve done a recent title search, you should already know what liens have been placed against your property. Since your ex-husband no longer owns the property, he may not have been able to subject your property to claims of his creditors. But you need to make sure that you own title to the home and that when your ex-husband transferred title of his share of the home to you, that transfer was done properly.
In most states, you can also contact your local recorder of deeds office or other local governmental office that handles the recording of documents and look up the title to your property. (In some counties, you can sometimes do your search online, which makes it easy, and can even receive copies of the documents online for a small fee.)
When you search your property’s recorded document, you should only see liens against the property for any mortgages or home equity lines of credit or loans that you’ve taken out and placed the house as the collateral. If you see a lien against the property for a loan you didn’t sign for and you don’t see a release of that lien on the record, then you may need the services of an attorney.