Title Insurance Would Have Saved the Day

by Mary Pellegrini, ILTA Treasurer

Every small town in America has a personality and a flavor. Our story is set in a small town outside Chicago settled by German and other Eastern European immigrants. The town has taverns and restaurants selling German beer and German fare. The houses are modest and well kept; the main street filled with small, locally owned shops. Here, folks stay in their homes and when they die, many times their children continue to stay in the family homes.

Our story is about one such family. After his parents died “Digger,” their only son continued to live in the family home. He got his nick name from his line of work which was digging graves in the local cemetery which adjoined his property. As people tend to do, Digger got old. He found himself in need of help and hired a woman to take care of him. He didn’t have much money so the agreement was that she would receive a small stipend, but she and her son could live in the house with him rent free. The lady took good care of him and so after a few years he told her she could have the house upon his death. His caretaker was not a sophisticated person so she accepted his offer as made. This is not a story of fraud, but of lack of knowledge. After his death she and her son continued to live on the property keeping it up and paying the taxes. After an altercation with the police which will be left unexplained, she decided she no longer felt safe in the community. She put the property up for sale and hired a local attorney to affect the transfer of title. The attorney contacted our title company to bring down title on the property. We found that the property was still vested in Digger’s parents! There were no liens on the property and taxes were up to date. They had been paid all these years by Digger and then by the lady who had taken care of him.

The attorney conferred with her client and gave her the news that they would have to go to court to quiet title. This could be costly. If only Digger and his caretaker had realized that she needed a title policy. The title insurance agency would have required various documents including death certificates for his parents and an affidavit of heirship to determine their heirs. Title could then have been found in Digger (using his Christian name of course). He could have then deeded it to the lady and fulfilled his very sincere offer to her.