This is the next post in my series discussing quiet title actions in Tacoma and Olympia, Washington and the surrounding areas. The previous article discussed the need to engage experienced real estate counsel when faced with a title defect or competing ownership claim. While self-help is possible in these and other legal situations, submitting incorrect filings or seeking inappropriate remedies may cause avoidable delays and increased costs to resolve the matter. A real estate lawyer can help you understand your options. This post will examine the process involved when filing an action to quiet title and how the outcome should be handled to adequately cure the title defects. If you are in need of assistance, contact my office today to speak to an attorney.
As mentioned in the previous post, title problems can range from technical defects to full blown ownership disputes. Regardless of which type of issues exists, quiet title actions in all cases, are lawsuits filed with the court. Like other litigation proceedings, an action to quiet title will involve a plaintiff, the party filing the action, and one or more defendants. If the title defect is technical in nature, the defendants in the matter will be all possible parties who may dispute the correction. If an identified third party or parties are claiming ownership interests in the plaintiff’s property, those identified individuals will be the defendants. Once a quiet title action is filed, defendants are put on notice through service of process or by public record that the owner is seeking to resolve the issue in court.
Some quiet title actions don’t involve real disputes, and can be resolved by agreement in a non-adversarial proceeding. For instance, if the case involves correcting a legal description or correcting a misidentified historic owner, the parties may agree that the court can simply issue an order correcting the matter. After the court issues the agreed order, the owner’s attorney will record the court’s order in the real property records, and the title defects will be considered resolved. Suppose, for example, a daughter purchases her mother’s home. The daughter prepares and records the deed for the conveyance and mistakenly uses an incorrect legal description for the property. After her mother’s death, she attempts to sell the property, but the mistyped description prevents the title company from clearing the property for sale. Because her mother has passed away, she cannot reissue a corrected deed. The daughter’s best course of action may be to file a quiet title action and ask the court to issue an order correcting the mistake.
In more contentious cases, defendants may respond and appear at a court hearing. As in other court proceedings, evidence supporting ownership claims will be presented to the court for consideration. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the dispute, other legal proceedings and expert testimony (from surveyors and possibly engineers and other professionals) may be necessary before a quiet title action is finalized. For example, if a property was conveyed through a probate court’s estate administration, and later other family members assert ownership claims against the same property, it may be necessary to reopen the probate case to review and resolve the matter.
In any situation where a property dispute exists, it is important to contact an attorney with real estate experience to help represent your interests. Contact us today to speak to an Olympia property lawyer. Our firm also services the Thurston County cities of Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, the Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood, the Lewis County cities of Centralia, and Chehalis, the King County cities of Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, and Federal Way, as well as other areas in Washington, including Grays Harbor, Mason, Cowlitz, and Pacific Counties.