Estate Frequently Asked Questions
What help can the Register of Deeds office provide
for drafting my own real estate documents?
considering buying a parcel of real estate. How can I find out what
liens, if any have been filed against it?
Can I do
my own title search?
Register of Deeds tell me if I have good and clear title?
How do I
change my deed so that it reflects my married name?
trustee of a trust dies, is it necessary to take any immediate action?
We recently paid off the mortgage on our home. When will we get a new
deed showing that we no longer owe the bank anything?
I paid off
a Federal Income Tax Lien but it is still showing on my credit report.
been told I need to get a “legal description” of my property. Where do I
What help can the Register of Deeds office provide for
drafting my own real estate documents?
The Register of Deeds office is charged
with the duty of being an independent custodian of records relating to real
estate. As such, the only area we can assist you in is general process
questions. We cannot assist you in the actual drafting of documents. We
highly recommend that you obtain legal counsel for these transactions.
Although several legal documents have
been developed into “fill-in-the-blank” style forms and appear to be very
easily completed, it is the answers to those fill-in-the-blank questions
that are critically important. Those answers can vary widely from person to
person. Determining the correct answer for your situation constitutes
“legal advice” we are not licensed to practice real estate law. Even if we
were, our role as custodian of the records would still prevent us from
assisting in the creation of the records.
I am considering buying a parcel of real estate. How can I
find out what liens, if any have been filed against it?
are borrowing money from a financial institution in order to make the
purchase, a title search will be ordered by that financial institution well
in advance of the closing. This search will reveal any outstanding liens.
If no financial institution is involved,
then you will want to contract directly with a title company for a complete
Can I do my own title search?
Strictly speaking, the answer is “yes”. Practically speaking, however, the
answer is probably “no”.
The records in the Register of Deeds
office are open for public inspection. However, unless you are familiar
with how real estate records are organized and how to perform a
“Grantor/Grantee” and a “Tract Index” search, it will be easier for you to
find the proverbial “needle in a haystack”. Additionally, there may be
documents on file with other county offices that may impact the property you
are interested in.
It is our experience that the expertise
a professional title searcher offers is well worth the money you will spend
– especially when you compare it to the value of the transaction you are
about to enter.
Can the Register of Deeds tell me if I have good and clear
No. The Register of
Deeds office is not authorized to render opinions regarding the status of
title. Professional title examiners or abstractors use the records in our
office as well as searching records in other county offices to determine if
the title is good and clear.
How do I change my deed so that it reflects my married name?
This question is more complex than it seems at first. In
its simplest form, you are not required to take any action. When you
sell the property at some point in the future, simply indicate on the deed,
for example: “Mary Smith, nka (now known as) Mary Jones hereby grants…etc.”
However, there are many other details that impact the
answer to this question. The most important of which is Wisconsin’s Marital
Property law. This law assumes that property used by a couple during the
course of a marriage is jointly owned unless specified otherwise.
If you wish to remain the sole owner of the property and
do not intend to convey any interest in the property to your spouse, steps
must be taken prior to and during the marriage to assure that this occurs.
If, however, you intend for your spouse to share in the
ownership of the property, there are a number of ways a married couple can
hold title to property and each one has distinct legal implications.
Depending on your financial status, age and other factors, a trust might
even be advisable.
As you can see, it is best to seek the help of an attorney
to draft a deed that will accomplish your goals.
If one trustee of a trust dies, is it necessary to take any
According to a member of the Probate and Real Property
Section of the Wisconsin State Bar Association that we conferred with, the
answer is “No.” The trust remains in effect. However, it is prudent to
review the trust with your attorney periodically to determine if
modifications to the trust would be advisable.
We recently paid off the mortgage on our home. When will we
get a new deed showing that we no longer owe the bank anything?
Under Wisconsin law, you only ever
receive one deed to your property and you should have received it shortly
after you closed on your property.
If you take a look at your deed, you
will notice that your name appears as a “grantee” but the bank is never
mentioned. So, when you pay your mortgage in full, it is not necessary to
update your deed.
What does need to be done is to have a
“Satisfaction of Mortgage” document recorded with the Register of Deeds
office. Financial institutions are required to record such a document
within a specified timeframe. If you received a “Satisfaction of Mortgage”
endorsed with a time, date and document number from a Register of Deeds
office, nothing further needs to be done. If you have not received the
endorsed satisfaction, you should check with your lender to be certain they
processed the appropriate paperwork.
I paid off a Federal Income Tax Lien but it is still showing
on my credit report. Why?
While Federal Income Tax Liens are recorded in the
Register of Deeds office we have no jurisdiction over the lien itself or any
release documentation once the lien is satisfied. We cannot record a
Release unless one is presented to us for recording.
The IRS changed their procedures several years ago and now
consider their liens to be "self releasing" after a certain number of
years. As a result they do not record Release of Lien documents as they
used to do.
It is our observation that credit-reporting agencies
generally do not read documents, they only look at the index. However, if
you contact the IRS, their staff may prepare a Certificate of Release that
you can record. This should clear your credit report. Contact the manger
in charge of preparation of federal tax liens at 414-297-1216 and ask for
I have been told I need to get a “legal description” of my
property. Where do I get that?
The legal description of your property
appears on your deed.
While this seems simple enough, it can
be complicated by two factors. If your property consists of a number of
small parcels that have been combined over time, a simple concise legal
description may not exist. The opposite can also be a problem. Your
property may have previously been a large parcel from which smaller parcels
were sold off. In both of these cases, several documents and some
interpretation may be required to construct a legal description.
If the history of your parcel fits into
either of the above descriptions, you should contact a registered land
surveyor for professional assistance in writing an accurate, updated legal