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Abstract Title Laws

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What Is Abstract of Title?

Abstract title, or “Abstract of Title”, is a type of legal document which provides the history of the title to a plot of real estate. Abstract titles contain a summary or brief history of how the property was owned, beginning with the original grant, up until the present title holder. One of its main purposes is to provide a legal record that the title is clear of any defects and is marketable.

Abstract titles can also make references to other legal documents which would prove the statements that it contains. By doing so, it helps to establish the legal status of the title through documentation. This is generally more acceptable to courts than oral histories or oral statements about the property, since the documents can be referenced. Abstract titles are sometimes called “epitome of title”.

What Is Usually Contained in an Abstract of Title?

As mentioned, abstract titles are generally summaries of the ownership history of the property. Therefore, they will contain a listing of the different persons or parties that owned the property, as well as information related to the transfer between the different owners. 

An abstract of title will generally contain:

  • Notes of all transfers or conveyances of title
  • Any facts pertaining to records that may impair or encumber the title (such as an easement)
  • Summaries of any grants, wills, conveyances, and judicial proceedings which would affect the title
  • Whether there are any outstanding liens or record for the property

What Does Marketable Title Mean?

Thus, abstract titles are very instrumental in the sale or conveyance of a property. This is because the title needs to be “free of encumbrances” in order to be marketable or transferable. “Marketable title” means that the there are no outstanding liens, debts, etc, on the property. Is also called, “Good and Merchantable Title”. If the title is in any way encumbered, this should be reflected in the abstract of title.   

Conducting a title investigation or a title search can often be fairly complicated. It usually requires the assistance of an experienced real estate lawyer, who is familiar with the county record system and local real estate laws. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Abstract Title Laws?

The laws governing abstract titles can be very different from state to state. If you need legal advice or assistance with an abstract of title, you should contact a real estate lawyer immediately. Your lawyer can help explain what an abstract title says about the real estate you’re investigating. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-01-2018 10:45 PM PDT

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