Q: My father’s property was sold in California a couple of years ago. I was recently contacted by the title company that assisted my father in the sale. They told me that there was a “typo” on the number of lots that were sold.
The buyer of my father’s property has since built condos on the property and is now in the process of trying to sell them. The current owners of the property have now found out two lots were listed in my father’s sale instead of the four they originally believed they purchased.
My Father is now deceased and I am the trustee of his estate and they want me to sign over the deed of the two “missing” lots due to the title company’s error. The title company admitted the mistake. Should I do what they are requesting?
At the time my father was aware that he was selling all 4 lots and did receive a check for that sale.
A: If the title company is willing to pay for you to have a real estate attorney review their information and any documentation that you may have to sign to correct the situation, we don’t see why you shouldn’t want to cooperate with the title company.
However, you shouldn’t be out of pocket in this situation for your expenses in helping out the title company and you should be entitled to have your own professionals assist you in reviewing the information and making sure that you aren’t doing anything that you otherwise wouldn’t want to do.
Talk to the title company and make sure they are agreeable to paying for an attorney you select and hire to review the documentation, including any documentation that the title company now wants you to sign. If they agree to underwrite the cost of this research, then you can proceed to assist them.
While title company errors are rare, when they do occur, if the parties to the transactions realize the error and the error can easily be corrected, there is no reason why those parties to the transaction should be unwilling to help out. But by the same reason, the error should not cost the assisting party any money to get the issue corrected.
If you have sufficient knowledge of the facts and don’t need or want the assistance of an attorney, you might be able to do this on your own. But as an executor of your father’s estate (or successor trustee of any trust he might have), you might have a fiduciary duty to make sure that everything is done properly this time. In this case, hiring an attorney would not only be prudent, it might be essential to protect you and your heirs from further complications down the line.
Even without talking to the title company, you can talk to a real estate attorney and get his or her opinion as to what you should do and whether you can sigh any documents that the title company might send your way.
But we think it is eminently reasonable for the title company to pay the bill for a few hours of your attorney’s time to assist them in correcting this error. And, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed asking them to cover the bill for this.