About that Missing Grant Deed…

Posted by on Jun 21, 2022

About that Missing Grant Deed…

If you have worked with me in the past about your estate planning, and if you own a house, you will recall that one of the first pieces of information I ask for from any new client is a copy of their Grant Deed.

What is a Grant Deed? It’s the 1-3 page document that was signed by the previous owner, to you, when you bought your house. It was recorded with your County Recorder, and it was mailed directly to you a few weeks after purchase of the house was complete.

A Grant Deed tells exactly how you took title, whether it was you alone or you with a spouse, whether you used middle names or middle initials. And, it tells how you took title, correctly as community property if you’re married, or as tenants in common if you own your house with someone other than a spouse. It also includes, usually on a separate page, the complete legal description of the land on which your house resides.

Why do I need a copy? In order to make a revocable living trust, I also need to make a Trust Transfer Deed to put the house in your name(s) as trustee(s) of your own trust. To do that, I need to repeat the exact titling on your Grant Deed as well as the exact wording of the legal description of the land. I type if all onto the new Trust Transfer Deed.

When I first started working as an estate planning attorney over eighteen years ago, almost everyone I worked with had a copy of their Grant Deed, and they would simply bring it or fax it to me.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that fewer people maintain the original Grant Deed they received upon purchase. Currently, about half my clients have lost or misplaced their Grant Deed. It’s no big deal, because copies are easily obtained from the County Recorder.

But it’s curious. A home is usually someone’s greatest asset, so you’d think that people would hold onto the piece of paper that says they have a house, even if paying off the mortgage is years down the road.

I’ve wondered why fewer and fewer people hold onto their Grant Deeds and can locate them when needed. I have a hypothesis.

In the olden days, we relied on paper documentation for everything. Even though Deeds are recorded with county recorders, meaning they are a permanent historical record, people used to have to store their own important papers and were in the habit of doing so.

As things have shifted toward most things being digital, I suspect that people just do not save paper as they used to. A Deed may arrive in the mail from the County Recorder, wind up in a pile of papers and eventually be discarded.

Again, it’s not a major problem because anything that has been recorded is available from the County Recorder.

I suggest that if you own a house and currently do know where your Grant Deed is, scan it and keep a copy of it on your computer. Then if you need it for things like estate planning or refinancing, you’ll have easy access to it and you won’t have to get a replacement copy. And, if you have recently refinanced, and you have a trust, make sure that the last recorded Deed shows your name(s) as trustee(s) of your trust.