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What Does "Abstract of Title" Mean?

"Abstract of title" is a term that is widely used in real estate law. It generally refers to the legal documents that contain the history for title to specific plot of land or real estate. An abstract of title, or abstract title, is basically a summary of the way that the real estate was owned.

It traces the chain of ownership titles from the original owner, through the succeeding owners, up to the present owners. They are typically stored at the county recorder’s office for record keeping, where they can be referred to when needed.

What is Typically Included in an Abstract of Title?

An abstract of title usually contains basic, important information regarding the property title and its history. These pieces of information may include:

  • A history of all transfers of the specific property
  • Any legal issues that impair or "encumber" the property (such as mortgage debt, tax debts, or easements)
  • Notes of any mentions of the property in a will, sale, or judicial conveyance that might affect the title in the near future
  • Whether there are any liens or similar judgments on the property

Thus, a person who needs to learn more about the history of a piece of property would look to the abstract of title to determine such information. This is often a more reliable source of information than oral accounts of the property’s history.

When is an Abstract of Title Used?

An abstract of title is typically consulted or used in the event of a title search. A title search is usually necessary anytime a property is being subject to a sale. In such cases, the prospective buyer will want to search the home’s title before they make a commitment. They will want to know whether or not the home has a marketable title, or whether there are any legal hindrances to selling and buying the property.

Also, an abstract title can be used to clear various legal disputes, including boundary disputes, disputes over easements and other encumbrances, and any disputes regarding gifts or similar transfers of title (such as instructions mentioned in a will). The abstract of title may serve as a written clarification for various disputes over the property’s title.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Abstract of Title?

You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need any help with an abstract title. Your lawyer can help you draft, modify, review, or contest and abstract titles according to your personal real estate needs. Also, your lawyer can represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit involving an abstract of title.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-25-2015 12:09 PM PDT

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