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Importance and Nature of the Register of Deeds
Ownership of rights in and claims on property constitute one of the chief
forms of wealth in American society. Accurate descriptions of property help
society avoid wasteful battles over boundaries and rights. Records of the
existence and exact nature of those rights are Ikeys to orderly economic
activity relating to that property. The Register of Deeds is able to tell who,
what, and when about property. This function is extremely important.
Local government property tax base is defined from records of the ROD.
The business community and consumers are served through Uniform
Commercial, Code filings. Business loans are made simpler, more secure,
less expensive, and more widely available to the mutual benefit of those
involved in the use of credit involving personal property, crops, and/or
The responsibilities of the office are set forth in the Wisconsin Statutes. The
Register of Deeds serves a statewide purpose, although elected at the
The general nature of the office of the Register of Deeds is described as
ministerial. The ROD has no discretion about whether or not to perform
tasks required by the Wisconsin Statutes. Nevertheless, an opinion of the
Wisconsin Attorney General qualifies this general position somewhat.
The Attorney General says that the ROD must read the law and judge
whether the law requires the ROD to perform a duty. In other words, the
ROD must not assume that every document presented at the office must be
recorded or filed. Judgments have to be made. Even more specifically, the
statutes require that the ROD judge whether documents meet the
statutory criteria to be recorded.
In summary, the Register of Deeds must, from time to time, exercise
judgment and decide whether statutory conditions are met before accepting
a document. A good rule to follow is to consult the corporation counsel or
district attorney when the proper action is unclear.
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