Title Matters – Summer Briefs

Summer Briefs

As we survive this incessant Louisiana heat and those almost daily showers that make it feel even hotter, I have to appreciate the fact that our careers primarily keep us in the cool environments of our offices. In thinking about preparing this blog, I searched for topics that would be of interest to fellow independent title attorneys. I came up with two topics that I thought would be of at least some interest to most of you out there.

Recording Fees

First, the easy topic. As most of you know, the Legislature recently passed a bill requiring clerk of courts across the State to charge the “same” for recordings. According to the statutes (La. R.S. § 13:844 and La. R.S. § 9:5217), recording fees must be as follows:

1-5 pages                     $100
6-25 pages                   $200
25-50 pages                 $300

These fees will include 1 certified copy or e-certification. It also provides that the cancellation of a single mortgage, lien or privilege will be $50. I have received, and am sure most of you have received, letters from different clerks about these changes. They take effect August 1, 2017, so you need to make sure your staffs are prepared. But what I am seeing is that some of the clerks in my area are adding a surcharge to these numbers. For instance, Vermilion and St. Martin Parishes are adding a $5 and $10 charge, respectively, to every recording fee. I spoke with the Clerk for West Baton Rouge Parish recently, and he is aware that some parishes are adding as much as $30 per recording to pay for court house repairs. So you will need to get with every parish you deal with in advance to see what they charge. It’s better than what we had before, but we still need to check with clerks’ offices to verify recording costs.

Seizin of Successors

Civil Code Article 935 clearly provides that “[i]mmediately at the death of the decedent, universal successors acquire ownership of the estate and particular successors acquire ownership of the things bequeathed to them.” For a long time, most title practitioners took the position that if an heir was not put in possession of their interest in the estate, that any lien or judgment against that heir did not attach to the property of the estate. I have confirmed with 2 underwriters that they interpret Article 935 to mean that any lien or judgment against an heir or legatee attaches at death. That being the case, we as title attorneys need to be running the names of the heirs or legatees on our estates that are selling in our transaction, as well as, the heirs or legatees for all estate sellers in our chain of title. It is my impression from talking to others in the industry that we as a group generally are not doing this.

One underwriting counsel that I spoke with said we have to take the bad with the good when it comes to seizin. We use seizin as a basis for approving titles to properties where no succession was done. So if we take the position that title transfers at death for purposes of approving the title of an heir, then we must also accept that the liens and judgments would attach then as well.

We may have to do a little more research and deal with judgments more often. But if we don’t, we are opening ourselves and our underwriters to possible claims.

Randy Olson,
Prime Title, Lafayette, LA 70508