There are tons of reasons you may need to prove your ownership of real estate. For example, you may have inherited real property that you would now like to take out a mortgage on, or maybe you're playing a high-stakes game of poker in 1880. Whatever the reason, proving that you own real estate in the 2020s is actually pretty simple most of the time.
In fact, proof of ownership of real estate is one of those things that has to be established hundreds or thousands of times a day, at every title company in the country. Because title insurance can't be issued until the seller is proven to be the owner of the real property, title and escrow companies are constantly examining the chain of title, a historical record that shows every transaction and recorded document involving that particular piece of real estate.
Easy ways to prove ownership of a property
For the vast majority of people who may be unsure about how to prove they're the property owner of a piece of real estate, the answer is ridiculously simple: Are you registered as the person who pays the property tax on the real estate? Almost every jurisdiction in the country now has digital tax records, which reflect the person(s) listed as the property owner on the deed to the property, as part of the public record.
If you simply are concerned about providing proof of ownership to list a property for sale, that's the absolute simplest way to do it. Of course, there are a lot of situations where it's not so cut and dried, like in the case of divorce, inheritance, or if the property is owned by a corporation.
In these cases, you may need additional documentation, such as incorporation papers, an executed divorce decree, or a will to prove your ownership claim. There are also several deed types that can be used to establish ownership if your property purchase hasn't been completely or properly recorded in the property record.
Types of deeds that help prove ownership
The main type of deed that most people hold are called property deeds. They're pretty much exactly what you'd expect: deeds that outline who owns the property, along with a description of a unique piece of property, called the legal description. When you purchase a property as the grantee, you receive a property deed from the seller, the grantor. You should then record this deed transfer with your city or county -- if you closed using a title or escrow service, this will usually be done for you.
Other common types of deeds that can be used to transfer title, but aren't necessarily recorded right away, include beneficiary deeds and quitclaim deeds.
A beneficiary deed is created when someone wants to leave you a property upon their death, so they're also sometimes referred to as a "death deed." When the owner passes, you'll be able to have the property deed recorded under your name upon producing a death certificate (you may still have to go through probate court, depending on the state and circumstances).
A quitclaim deed is a very distinctly different kind of deed that is often granted in the case of a divorce or business partnership dissolution. The purpose of it is for a living owner to "quit" their ownership of the property, leaving the other owners on the deed. If you've received a quitclaim deed, you could be already listed as an owner on the deed, in which case you're simply removing an owner.
In other situations, you may be claiming title for the first time via your marital rights, especially in states where tenancy by the entirety is the law of the land. In this case, your former spouse would grant a quitclaim deed in order to leave you as sole owner, even if you're not already listed on the deed. You'll need to register the quitclaim deed, along with divorce documentation, to have the property recorded under your own name.
Different states sometimes have different forms of basic titles, such as a general warranty deed, so your very best bet is to check with a local title company or your recorder's office for more information on which type of real estate deed is applicable to you.
The Millionacres bottom line
It's important to always record any changes that occur in the ownership of a property, whether you're the grantor or grantee, in any real estate transaction. By insisting that your property deed is recorded correctly, you'll save yourself a lot of hassle trying to prove ownership of the property should you choose to sell, rent, take out a new mortgage, or otherwise make changes to your current financial arrangements.
Your local title or escrow company will be more than happy to draw up new documents for you and even record the new paperwork to save you a lot of headaches. They know exactly what you will need to prove your current ownership, as well as what it takes to execute the legal moves you're attempting.