Minnesota Real Estate Titles

Minnesota Real Estate Titles

Minnesota Real Estate Titles

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Title Ownership Evidence

All Minnesota real property offers one of two types of title ownership evidence:

  • The Abstract Property form of title evidence; or
  • The Registered Property form of title evidence – the Torrens Property Certificate of Title.

Real property that offers the Abstract Property form of title evidence has not been registered pursuant to the Minnesota Torrens real property registration system.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Abstract Property

The Minnesota Abstract Property form of title evidence is based on a system which:

  • does not provide any title ownership certificate – as does the Minnesota Registered Property system, and
  • providing certain document recording standards are satisfied, is not supervised by any government official – as is the Minnesota Registered Property

Prior to the 1901 enactment of the Minnesota Torrens Property Registration statutes – now found in Minn. Stat. Chapter 508 – all Minnesota real property was subject to the Abstract Property system of title evidence.

(i)      Title Evidence – Minnesota Abstract Property

In order to determine the status of title with respect to Minnesota Abstract Property, independent abstractors or title companies may be hired to:

  • prepare a new abstract of title – a complete compilation of all documents which have been recorded at the County Recorder’s office, beginning with the original Congressional grant or patent from the U.S. Government – affecting the real property under examination;
  • “continue” or “update” to the present a pre-existing abstract of title; or
  • prepare a short, or stub abstract of title – a compilation of all of the instruments affecting the real property under examination from and after a specified date.

Once initially prepared or subsequently updated, the abstract of title will contain summary entries of significant information identified in each document which has been recorded in the office of the County Recorder relating to the real property.

For good reason, the abstractor may also photocopy a recorded document, and show it as an exhibit to an entry in the abstract of title.

(ii)     Self-Governing Nature of the Minnesota Abstract Property System

The Minnesota Abstract Property title evidence system is self-governing, in the sense that every time title is to be transferred, the abstract of title must be:

  • updated by a Title Company, and
  • examined by either a Title Company, or legal counsel for the prospective buyer or lender.

Unless and until:

  • a quiet title legal action with respect to such real property is concluded in a Minnesota District Court,
  • title to the Minnesota real property is registered pursuant to a Torrens Registration Proceeding, or
  • a Minnesota probate court has issued a Decree of Distribution or a Decree of Descent,

there will be no Minnesota government official providing any declaration or determination as to the status of title with respect to Minnesota Abstract Property.

(iii)    Title Examination – Minnesota Abstract Property

With respect to Minnesota Abstract Property, attorneys or Title Company employees will examine some form of abstract of title relating to the real property, and based upon such examination, issue an opinion as to the legal status of the title.

Any title opinion issued by a Title Company examiner will take the form of a preliminary commitment for a title insurance policy.

Thereafter, each time that the title to Abstract Property is transferred, the abstract of title must be updated and re-examined.

Over time, the abstract of title will become:

  • longer – as more entries are recorded, and
  • to some extent, more time-consuming to examine.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Registered “Torrens” Property

In contrast to the Minnesota Abstract Property system, the Minnesota Registered Property system:

  • provides a title ownership certificate – which is similar in appearance to a vehicle title, and
  • is supervised by the office of the County Registrar of Titles – which will determine the propriety and effectiveness of a document before accepting it for filing.

If necessary, a Minnesota Registered Property title can be adjudicated by the office of the County Examiner of Titles – which can be requested to provide a legal Directive with respect to the propriety or sufficiency of any document submitted for filing.

Initial Real Property Registration in Minnesota – “Torrens” Property

Minnesota Abstract Real Property may become subject to the Minnesota Registered Property system pursuant to an initial registration procedure governed by Minn. Stat., Chapter 508, which requires:

  • notice to all interested persons, and
  • a hearing before a judge or deputy judicial officer.

Immediately following a successful judicial hearing, a decree of registration will be signed by a judicial officer, and either:

  • released to the attorney pursuing the registration for filing with the County Registrar of Titles, or
  • filed directly with the County Registrar of Titles.

Thereafter, the County Registrar of Titles will issue a Certificate of Title in the name of the registered owner – subject only to all adjudicated encumbrances (and statutory title exceptions) – which are noted as “memorials” on the Certificate of Title.

The issuance of a Certificate of Title will eliminate the necessity of maintaining an abstract of title with respect to any real property which has been registered.

Thereafter, upon any prospective transfer of title, generally only those title issues appearing on the Certificate of Title will need to be considered by the examining attorney or title company.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles Registration – Benefits

(i)    Address Title Defects, and Eliminate “Clouds” on Title

An owner may choose to register title to Minnesota real property under Chapter 508 because:

  • certain title defects – “clouds on title” – may have been identified by an examination of the abstract of title, and
  • the Torrens Registration Proceeding is an effective way to address such defects.

(ii)    Provide Cleaner Title Evidence

An owner may also choose to register title to Minnesota real property under Chapter 508 in order to provide “cleaner” evidence of title ownership to a prospective buyer than is available under the Abstract Property form of title evidence.

Once real property has been registered under the Torrens title registration system, attorneys and title examiners will no longer be required to examine information relating to certain recorded documents dating back to the original conveyance from the U.S. Government.

Instead, the title examiner will merely need to review those title issues identified on the Certificate of Title.

(iii)    Provide Independent Review of Documents

A third benefit of the Minnesota Registered Property system is that a County official at the office of the Registrar of Titles:

  • will review all documents submitted for filing for propriety and effectiveness, and
  • may require that certain issues be approved by a second County official at the office of the Examiner of Titles before the Registrar of Titles will accept a document for filing.

For example, the Examiner of Titles must review and approve all probate documents before a Personal Representative’s Deed, or a probate court decree, may be accepted for filing.

While the process of document review by the Registrar of Titles – and when required, by the Examiner of Titles – may add to the procedural requirements for filing certain documents, it also ensures that documents which are accepted for filing:

  • are in proper form, and
  • will accomplish the intended objective.

(iv)    Protect Title From Adverse Possession Claims

A fourth benefit of the Minnesota Registered Property system is that real property rights are less likely to be lost to adverse possession claims – since Minnesota registered real property titles are generally not subject to a legal action or a defense which is based upon the physical occupation of real property for a statutory number of years.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Torrens Procedures Subsequent to Initial Registration

After real property has become subject to the Minnesota Registered Property system, certain legal matters must be adjudicated by the Examiner of Titles or judge before they may become legally effective.

The process of such adjudication is known as a “Proceeding Subsequent” [to initial registration].

For example,

  • all of the documents involved in a contract-for-deed cancellation must be submitted to the Examiner of Titles, and
  • a hearing held,

before a new title certificate can be issued to the party canceling a contract-for-deed with respect to Minnesota Registered Property.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Examiner of Titles Directives

Certain legal issues appearing on a Registered Property Certificate of Title can be addressed, and perhaps resolved, by the County Examiner of Titles pursuant to a request for a “Directive” of the Examiner of Titles.

Such Directives can be helpful in addressing historical legal issues identified on the Certificate of Title which may be currently unenforceable, or no longer legally relevant, but still appear as memorials on the Certificate of Title.

Minnesota Real Estate Titles – Proper County Recording Office

The office of the County Recorder accepts documents for recording which relate to Abstract Property in Minnesota.

The office of the County Registrar of Titles accepts documents for filing which relate to Torrens Property in Minnesota.

In some Minnesota counties, both the office of the County Recorder, and the office of the County Registrar of Titles, are located behind the same counter where the real property records are maintained.

However, in other Minnesota counties, the County Recorder and the County Registrar of Titles will each have a separate counter – sometimes in different parts of the same building.

The recording or filing of a document in the proper office is essential to its effectiveness.

Conclusion – Unresolved Title Issues in Minnesota

If you are facing a Minnesota Real Estate Titles issue which can possibly be resolved by:

  • an initial Torrens Registration Procedure,
  • a Proceeding Subsequent, or
  • an Examiner’s Directive,

or you have other unresolved Minnesota Abstract Property title issues, please contact Minnesota attorney Gary C. Dahle, at 763-780-8390, or gary@dahlelaw.com.

Copyright 2017 – All Rights Reserved

Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law

2704 County Road 10, Mounds View, MN 55112

Phone:  763-780-8390   Fax: 763-780-1735

gary@dahlelaw.com

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