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Best Practices for Real Estate Document Preparation

BEST PRACTICES FOR REAL ESTATE DOCUMENT PREPARATION

Professional Escrow Resources, LLC (the “Company”), a Certified Legal Document Preparation Company (AZCLDP #81407) is dedicated to the real estate industry. We have limited our focus to the preparation of legal documents dealing with all aspects of real property. In doing so, we have developed and implemented our “Best Practices for Real Estate Document Preparation” to safeguard chain of title, protect the parties named within a legal instrument and facilitate the proper execution, filing and recording of the documents we prepare.

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MISSION STATEMENT

Professional Escrow Resources is the real estate industry’s most trusted resource for the preparation of real estate legal documents. By simplifying the consumer’s experience and utilizing our Real Estate Document Preparation Experts’ extensive knowledge we are a resource to educate the public, promote confidence and compliment the industry, while safeguarding the chain of title and the interests of our customers.

Best Practice #1:
Obtain and maintain current certifications as required from the local governing authority to prepare legal documents.

Purpose: Maintaining mandated certification helps ensure the Company remains in good standing and is meeting the requirements of governing agency, including qualifications, continuing education, and accountability.
Procedures to meet this best practice (Arizona):

  • Obtain Legal Document Preparation Certification for the Company.
  • Obtain Certification for all Legal Document Preparers on company staff.
  • Maintain Certification through continuing education

Best Practice #2:
Maintain appropriate professional liability insurance.

Purpose: Professional liability insurance or errors and omissions insurance help ensure the financial capacity to stand behind professional services.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • Maintain professional liability insurance or errors and omissions insurance in a minimum amount of $1,000,000.00 through a reputable insurance provider.
  • The Company complies with requirements for professional liability insurance, errors and omission insurance, fidelity coverage or surety bonds, as provided by state law and agreements with Title Insurance Companies for providing Notary Services.

Best Practice #3:
Adopt and maintain written procedures relating to the preparation and delivery of documents.

Purpose: Implementing appropriate procedures help ensure that the customer’s goals and objectives are met and that the Company meets its contractual obligations.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • The Company confirms every document preparation order in writing with the Customer. This confirmation includes the type of documents requested, the spelling of all names, addresses, parcel numbers, legal descriptions and other vital information to ensure a clear, mutual understanding of the details of the document preparation request.
  • Before any services are performed, a written estimate is provided by the Company to the Customer to delineate all costs involved with the order, and to whom all monies are paid.
  • The Company advises the Customer during the initial request an estimated completion date or benchmarks for each point in a transaction and provides timely delivery of documents.

Best Practice #4:
Maintain strict control over documents recorded in the public, recording electronically wherever possible.

Purpose: Implementing procedures for review of documents prior to recording to eliminate errors, omissions and inaccuracies in the public record.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • The Company has created a Pre-Recording Check List that accompanies the documents. Names, notary acknowledgments, legal descriptions, parcel numbers and all other vital information is verified prior to submitting a document for recording.
  • Only original documents with all original signatures, including notary stamps and/or seals and original certifications are accepted for recording. No fax or scanned copies are accepted.

Best Practice #5:
Record documents electronically.

Purpose: This practice avoids delays in recording and the possibility of documents being lost, defaced or stolen and avoids the recording of fraudulent documents.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • Create an Account with governmental agencies as a “trusted source” wherever possible.
  • Establish recording partners with web based electronic recording providers to be utilized for those Counties wherein it is not practical or available to create a separate recording account.

Best Practice #6:
Certified notaries employed by the Company are certified with the National Notary Association including background checks. Customers requiring “off-site” Notaries will be directed to other certified notaries through national database.

Purpose: This practice demonstrates that Notaries of the Company have the skills, knowledge, and qualifications to competently complete signing of all types of documents, including lender documents.
Procedures to meet this best practice.

  • Require all notaries of the Company obtain certification from National Notary Association, OR
  • Conduct background checks for all notaries of the Company
  • Establish and maintain a national database for referrals to only those notaries that meet the requirements of notaries of the Company

Best Practice #7:
Maintain written fee schedules and rate manuals.

Purpose: To ensure customers are charged correctly for the services provided by the Company.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • A written fee schedule is to be maintained and available upon request
  • Periodic review of fees to best serve the customer
  • Maintain and follow a rate manual for the types of services that are not delineated on a fee schedule

Best Practice #8:
Put a System in place to deal with customer questions, concerns or complaints.

Purpose: A method for resolving customer concerns will uncover areas where improvement processes may be implemented. It will provide a process for which errors will be uncovered and timely corrections may be made.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • The Company shall empower all team members to make decisions to respond appropriately to resolve customer complaints and concerns.
  • All customer feedback to be shared with all team members.

Best Practice #9:
Adopt and maintain written privacy and information security program to protect non-public personal information as required by local, state and federal law.

Purpose: In the normal course of business the Company may become privy to certain confidential information or account numbers from the customer. Any sensitive information must be handled securely to ensure no improper disclosure of information occurs.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • Physical security of non-public personal information.
  • Restrict access to non-public personal information to authorized employees who have undergone background checks at hiring.
  • Maintain and secure access to Company information technology
  • Develop guidelines for the appropriate use of Company information technology.
  • Disposal of non-public personal information in a manner that protects against unauthorized access to or use of the information.
  • Establish a disaster management plan in the event privacy information is breached, including notification to customers and law enforcement.

Best Practice #10:
Internal Auditing of processes on a semi-annual basis.

Purpose: To ensure that all of the practices are in place and carried out within the Company.
Procedures to meet this best practice:

  • Set up procedures for internal auditing of Best Practices on a semi-annual basis.
  • Publish results of audit on Company website.

Alaska Adopts Real Property Transfer on Death Act

Alaska’s Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act Signed Into Law

On April 23rd, 2014, Alaska Governor Chris Parnell signed Alaska’s Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act into law. Alaska is poised to join the 12 other states that have already adopted the Uniform Law, with an additional 11 states and the District of Columbia also having some version of the statute, making 25 national jurisdictions that allow real property owners to transfer their assets upon death, without their heirs having to go through probate. An additional 3 states have introduced legislation this year.

State Representaive Max Gruenberg (D – Anchorage)  introduced the bill (AK HB 60), which was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature. The bill is set to become effective as of July 21, 2014. Here’s what the bill’s sponsor had to say about it:

“The last thing a grieving family wants to deal with is a drawn out court process just to honor tMax Gruenberghe wishes of their deceased loved one…This legislation allows Alaskans to transfer property without expensive legal counsel by pre-arranging property transfers so their loved ones can work through the grieving process without the burden of unnecessary legal proceedings.”

Transfer on Death Deeds, also known as Beneficiary Deeds or Ladybird Deeds, are a valuable estate planning tool. While some estates are too complicated for a TOD, these documents allow for families to save thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention the emotional strain of the ordeal. Docprepper.com is happy to assist you in preparing and recording a Transfer on Death Deed! Call (855) DOC-EASY with any questions!

Where did the the term “Deed” come from? (Livery of Seisin)

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

What’s in a name?

We’ve all heard and used the term. Here at docprepper.com headquarters, we probably say, type or think it about 1000 times a day! So just for kicks, we decided to explore the term deed a bit further than it’s taken on a regular basis.

A deed is a deed, indeed!

So it turns out, all of our modern day deeds derive from an early English common law technique called “feoffment.” More specifically, there was a ritual (deed) performed called “livery of seisin” (or seizin).

The term “livery” is related to “delivery” and is still used in modern contract law. Livery of seisin could mean either livery in law, whereby the parties would go within sight of the land, a declaration is made and the recipient walks into the land or it could refer to livery in deedan ancient display in front of witnesses that included a physical transfer of land from one party to another!

In this act, also referred to as the “turf and twig ceremony,” the person transferring the land would take a handful of dirt, a twig or a stone from the actual land and hand it over to the person receiving the property while making a recital, such as “This turf and twig I give to thee, as free as Athelstan gave to me, and I hope a loving brother thou wilt be!”

A Famous Example

In fact, William Penn (of Pennsylvania fame) took possession of his land through the ceremony of livery of seisin! You can visit the site of the ceremony even today and see this plaque:

Credit: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons

Today at the closing table we may hand over keys instead of dirt, and we may sign a Warranty Deed instead of performing the livery of seisin, but it’s not so far off that you can’t recognize the ancient in the modern… pretty cool!

When will my deed transfer show up on the county website?

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

I transferred the title to my property, but the county records still have the old information online! What happened? Was I ripped off?!?!

Whoa, calm down friend! Although it’s not outside the realm of possibility your deed was unintentionally or maliciously unrecorded, there’s a far more likely explanation we should explore first:  delay. Most counties take a bit of time to update their publicly available records (assuming they even have publicly available records). So before you jump to conclusions, give the county recorder, clerk or registrar a call and ask them how to get a copy of a recorded document. It’s usually pretty simple.

So how long does it take the county recorder to update their records?

As soon as document is recorded, it’s officially in the public record. Organizations like professional title plants gather and index information about recorded documents, and are usually current within several days (although the public usually doesn’t have access to this information). Many counties also have recording information publicly available on their website, and this can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few months to update. For example, here’s an excerpt from the Maricopa County Assessor‘s website:

The Assessor receives over 400,000 documents from the Recorder‘s Office each year, however you can expect that an ordinary house on a subdivision lot purchase could take 6-8 weeks after recording before the change displays on the web site. Purchases outside of a subdivision (mete/bounds legal descriptions or splits of property) take longer unless the Assessor‘s parcel number of the property is included in the legal description on the recorded deed.

(Here’s a link to the Maricopa County Assessor‘s search page – usually a couple of months out of date.)

Isn’t there a faster way to find out if my document has been recorded?

Usually, yes! Every county has a unique identifying number for each recorded document. If you have access to this number (it will usually be stamped or otherwise shown on your original document) you can call the county and they will verify it has been recorded. Maricopa County, Arizona, has a website that allows you to input and see a recorded document immediately after it’s been recorded (here’s a link to that website). So if you need to check and see if something has been recorded, don’t just freak out on your escrow officer, legal document preparer or friend that “supposedly” recorded your document! Make sure you’ve allowed enough time to pass, and a phone call to the local recorder never hurts.