Q: I enjoy your column in my local paper. I find it has lots of good information. I have a problem and need your help. I was added to the deed on a house in River Rouge, Michigan without my permission. How can I get off it without spending a lot of money?
A: In general, when you become an owner of real estate, it’s because you agreed to buy property or received a piece of property in an inheritance.
In your case, you neither agreed to buy nor receive the piece of property and you did not take any action to take ownership of the property.
In a real estate purchase, you receive the title to the land or home you have purchased by accepting the deed at settlement or at the real estate closing. If you a relative gives you a piece of land or a home as a gift, you are usually given title to that property and you can then proceed to record the title with the local recorder of deeds or other governmental office that takes care of real estate recordings.
In the last scenario, you could be given a piece of property and the person that gives you the gift moves to put you into title of that home or piece of land. While you might not have received a piece of paper, you would have accepted the gift by other means. You might have acknowledged the gift and thanked the person that gave you the gift by letter or other action.
In some circumstances, people decide to take it upon themselves to gift a home or a piece of land to a relative without their knowledge. In this situation, the recipient of the gift is under no obligation to accept the gift. In fact, if you had no knowledge of the gift and when you found out about it took actions that would show that you had no desire to accept the gift, you may not have any problems relating to the property.
Having said that, if your name and address identifies you as the owner of the home, you could say that the law may not recognize you as the owner but in practice, the governmental agencies that deal with the gifted land may consider you as the owner.
To solve this practical issue, you might be able to unwind the original document by having the person who gave you the land issue a new document that reversed the grant in the first document. You, in turn, could issue a quit claim deed transferring any interest you could be considered to have in the land back to the person who gave it to you.
If the person that gave you the land is unwilling to cooperate with you, you might be able to issue your own quit claim deed back to the original owner and record that document with the property governmental agency. However, you might want to note on that quit claim deed the circumstances of the original gift, including that you never accepted the gift, and that by using the quit claim deed you reject the gift given to you.
Finally, the document should probably state that the effective date of the quit claim deed is the original gift date to you. You want to make it clear to the world that you never had an intention on receiving or accepting the gift, that the purpose of the document is to reject any interest that may have purportedly been given to you and that now that your name has been placed on the title to a particular piece of property or home, you reject any ownership that might have been conveyed to you.
While you don’t want to spend much money, you might want to talk to a title company officer in the city in which you live to make sure your document would be the right document to record to reject any purported gift given to you. You can also talk to the governmental office that accepts documents for recording and get some information from them. However, your best bet is to talk to a real estate attorney in your area and get his or her help on this problem.
You could ignore the problem and claim no interest in the land and hope that the property is lost as a result of unpaid taxes or other issues, but if someone is hurt on the property or there is a problem with the property, you don’t want people coming after you for any of these issues.
Each jurisdiction may have its own particular method of taking care of your issue, so you should do a little research and take care of getting your name of the title to the home.