How to Prove Ownership of Property

The transfer of real estate does not always involve sale of the property.
The transfer of real estate does not always involve sale of the property. (Image: matt_benoit/iStock/Getty Images)

Generally, an owner of real property is someone who has a legal or equitable interest in the property. Proving ownership interest in real estate requires providing documentation, usually in the form of a recorded deed that transfers title of the property. Title means you have an interest in the property, which gives you the right to use the property and make improvements. It also gives you the right to transfer part or all of your ownership interest to others.

Check with the office that records deeds in the county in which the property is located. The office of the recorder of deeds, sometimes known as the register of deeds, records and files documents relating to real estate transactions in the county. A warranty deed, quitclaim deed or deed of distribution is a legal document that transfers ownership of real property interests -- the land and land improvements, including structures permanently attached to the land.

Search for land records online. Most counties have this information available on their official websites. A deed names both the party conveying ownership interests in the property and the party to whom ownership is being transferred. Once the deed is recorded after closing on a real estate transaction, it becomes part of the public record for anyone to examine or make copies. For a nominal fee, you can request a certified copy of your deed from the office of the county clerk or county register of deeds office.

Confirm that a transfer on death deed, or beneficiary deed, was filed with the county land records office. The deed does not take effect until the person leaving you the property dies. State requirements for transfer on death deeds vary. Since not all states allow this type of deed, either an executor's deed or administrator's deed may be used to transfer title of the property to you, depending on whether the person bequeathing you the property dies with or without a will.

Verify that your mortgage has been recorded in the county clerk’s office or local land records office, which is usually located in the county courthouse. Whether the lender takes a mortgage or a deed of trust on the property, either document is a promissory note you sign promising to repay the loan you received to purchase the property. For the purpose of deducting mortgage interest, the Internal Revenue Service recognizes your mortgage as a secured debt on a property in which you have an ownership interest. Once you pay off your mortgage debt, the lender will forward a satisfaction of mortgage document to the county to record in the public records.

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