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I've found it get hard to get clear information on this subject, but here's the best I can come up with:

My wife's maternal grandmother inherited land from her husband. Some of that land was sold to their oldest son (my wife's uncle). The rest stayed in the grandmother's name until she died.

Then, all of her land was sold to a 3rd party. The sale of this land required the signatures of all of my mother-in-law's siblings (the grandmother's heirs).

At the time of this sale, I was not married to my wife.

Now, years later, someone is saying there was something wrong with the deed of the sale, and supposedly the piece of land the uncle received was incorrectly accounted for. (The 3rd party and the uncle were both paying land taxes for the same land, and they have the same accountant who noticed the error).

To "clear the title", the lawyer of my wife's uncle is demanding we sign a Corrective Warranty Deed. My wife and her siblings, as well as all their spouses, are being included in this demand since my mother-in-law died before this error was discovered.

They've also now threatened us with a lawsuit, presumably to force us to sign documents that have never been explained to us.

We've only received letters that boil down to, "Sign this, because I told you to", with no clear explanation as to what we're signing, or why we have to be at all involved with a piece of land that, by all accounts, none of us had an interest in. (Purportedly, the lawyers who drafted the original sale made some mistake, and giving us more details requires them to acknowledge the mistake. Family members who've pried for more information have been met with resistance and rudeness).

I'm particularly confused as to why I would be required to sign anything, as my wife and I were not married at the time of the original sale. And, as far as I can gather, the extra bit of land that was not properly accounted for was under the ownership of the uncle, and wasn't part of the land that was divvied up to the heirs.

So, what is a Corrective Warranty Deed, and why am I being required to sign it? And, if this were to go to court, would I have to appear, and what would the expected outcomes be?

The land is located in Nebraska, but we do not live there. We're currently unable to make a trip out to the local area in question, due to financial, vehicular, and other constraints.

Based on what I've been able to find, Nebraska intestate succession for assets, such as land not in a trust, gets divided among the spouse (1/2) and the rest divvied among the descendants. Nothing I can find specifies that descendant's spouses are entitled to a share, but rather that inheritance is a non-marital asset.

Update:

I was able to see some legal counsel, although it wasn't a real estate lawyer. They, too, were confused by the deed and the fact that the specific corrections were not spelled out and I was not given a copy of the original deed. I drafted a letter, which I've faxed, requesting that specific information and assurance that there's no risk or liability to us by signing this (I've been concerned about anything that might necessitate reporting gains or losses to assets).

This morning I had also called the law firm and left a message for the attorney.

After faxing the letter, I called the law firm again and confirmed with the assistant that the fax had been received. She also informed me that the attorney had drafted a letter to me, after the phone call, that incidentally contains the information I was requested, and I should receive it by email later today.

What I gathered from my visit to legal services is that I am being asked to sign this, as a spouse, because of a "cloud" in the title, and it's par for the course to ask for spouse signatures when it comes to deeds, whether or not the spouse has claim to the land, so non-marital assets don't come into play in this case.

What I gathered from the legal assistant at the law firm is that the legal description of an area of land that was excepted in the original deed was incorrect. So, the exception, which the uncle legally owns, is being corrected to reflect that the correct plot of land the uncle owes. I'll be able to compare the differences once I receive the letter. My guess is that they wrote something like "northwest corner" instead of "northeast" corner.

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    You can always ask them what grounds they have for filing suit (since threats of suit are a common strongarm tactic). Generally though, when you have someone who wants to quickly escalate, you'll want to get council. Maybe you can find a pro bono attorney – Pat W. Jul 21 '15 at 13:47
  • It sure sounds like they are not handling this in a very friendly fashion. I have had a case of a title company finding a flaw and coming back and asking about it but they handled it in a much more reasonable fashion--we were asked to quitclaim our interest in the property. Since we had already sold the property in question this was a quite reasonable request. – Loren Pechtel Jul 24 '15 at 5:29
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I am not a lawyer, I am not your lawyer, I am unfamiliar with the jurisdiction

I demand you give me your hat!

You're not going to, are you? The point of that is that you are not obliged to do anything just because someone demands that you do. Now, if I had a court order that required you to give me your hat ...

It appears that there is some confusion over who owns some land in Nebraska. This is a problem; it is not your problem.

From my understanding which is entirely based on this:

A warranty deed is a type of deed where the grantor (seller) guarantees that he or she holds clear title to a piece of real estate and has a right to sell it to the grantee (buyer).

you would be extremely unwise to sign such a deed since it is in no way clear that you (or anyone) does have clear title.

Now I take it that you are not interested in owning land in Nebraska and even less interested in getting into a legal battle over it.

If that is the case then I suggest that you consult a local lawyer and ask for his advice on the following plan of action: You and your wife will renounce any claim that you may have if:

  1. You do not guarantee that you have any claim or title,
  2. The person to whom you are making this grant indemnifies you against any legal action that may result,
  3. They will prepare the documents,
  4. Your lawyer will review them,
  5. They will reimburse you for your lawyer's fees.

Come back and tell us how this works out.

Edit to address subsequent questions

Can you be responsible for costs?

Well, anything is possible but it would be extremely unlikely. If there was any wrongdoing it was many years ago by someone else! If you approach this in a reasonable way and attempt to assist in reaching a resolution (so long as it doesn't cost you time or money) then it is highly unlikely a court would award costs against you.

What about background checks?

This would be a civil case. It would not appear in your criminal history. While it is a matter of public record all it really means is that you and someone else had a dispute that required a court to settle; happens all the time.

  • I'm going to meet with some legal services asap, but the letter we got from the lawyer says they need a notarized, signed deed correction by the 28th or they'll file suit, so not sure how quickly I can get the info on my end. My concern is that, to me, it feels like this is being done so they uncle either gets more money, or doesn't lose money. We haven't even been given a copy of the original deed to compare to! But I'm going to call that lawyer tomorrow as well, since he's been rude and evasive towards my in-laws(who are in NE). I need to get a clearer picture from him myself. – user702 Jul 21 '15 at 6:49
  • Don't panic; if they want to waste money on filing fees let them, you can just make a submitting appearance (or the equivalent in Nebraska) which is just a statement that you will submit to whatever orders the court thinks reasonable save as to costs. – Dale M Jul 21 '15 at 7:09
  • But can the law firm come after me for costs? And how will a lawsuit affect me background checks as someone in IT related fields? Lots of unknowns for me here. – user702 Jul 21 '15 at 7:15
  • Get a lawyer asap – Dale M Jul 21 '15 at 7:17
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    After consulting with legal services, his response to the last two questions, addressed in your edited response, was the same. He further clarified that even for a security clearance background check that such a suit would hold no bearing. – user702 Jul 21 '15 at 18:04
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I had experience with this kind of case in Florida but am not an attorney. I know I'm late to the party but this happened to us years ago where we bought a piece of property in which a typo in the legal description put our plot out in the lake. It's amazing what one letter can do. We had to do what was called, "sue for signature", for every single previous owner of the property or heirs of the owners. It was basically a quit claim deed that stated they had no rights in the land. We did not, however, have to have the not related spouse sign. It was a nice letter explaining the situation. No one gave us any trouble until the "head of the family" of the heirs of the original owners from the 1800s. He said, "my lawyer told me not to sign no papers". We ended up having to go to court and have a judgment placed on him and it forced him to sign and pay the legal cost of us having to go to court because of his refusal. The judge did also tell him that he needed to sue his attorney for malpractice and expenses he had incurred because of bad legal advise. We were issued a warranty deed with the correct information and a judgment that stated that deed could not be altered as it was partnered with a Federal survey which we had to pay for in the end.

  • Yeah, I found out this was mostly a "because we do" thing and not necessarily legally required. More a CYA situation – user702 Oct 19 '16 at 17:17
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Here is how the process unfolds in most US jurisdictions: If a cloud is found on a title, (as we find described here), then it has to be resolved either by getting full warranty or quitclaim deeds from those owners and/or heirs "downstream" of the original goof, or the person who currently holds a cloudy title has to bring a motion before the court, a "Motion to Quiet Title."

If there is a discrepancy in the deed the court will look to all available documentation to attempt to discover original intent. If otherwise there's a simple error, such as a meets-and-bounds screwup that clearly doesn't match previous deeds, then the process is quite straightforward. Assuming that nobody files a response or objection, then the court nullifies the possible-but-theoretical competing claims and "removes the cloud."

With all this, if you are a successor and/or assign from the original deedholder who executed the original transfer deed, you have no obligation or responsibility to address it, though as a matter of comity and good intentions, you might.

I do believe that the type of deed you want to provide is a QUITCLAIM, not a warranty deed. You were never party to the original transfer to the uncle. In this specific situation, where you're twice- or thrice-removed from the clouded deed, a warranty deed would just make things worse.

The problem here is "intent." It would seem that in essence, Mr. 3rd party who bought the land from the estate thought he was buying a certain parcel, and he has in fact bought that certain parcel, which unfortunately seems to include land that the uncle thought he owned (but technically didn't). You're not at legal risk here at all. You need to execute a QUITCLAIM that says, "I have no interest in it," instead of a warranty. It's up to the 3rd party and the uncle to take it from there.

  • The verbiage on the document is "Corrective Warranty Deed", which I think may be the local term for a Quitclaim. The phrase "quitclaim" is included in the opening of the document's contents. – user702 Sep 17 '15 at 20:29
  • It may be unique in Nebraska, but a corrective deed is usually filed by the same people who wrote the original deed. I'm starting to wonder if it isn't entirely obvious that there was a "mistake" in the original deed. – dwoz Sep 22 '15 at 21:21
  • In this case, the buyer (private company) and seller (uncle/executor of estate) used the same lawyer. – user702 Sep 22 '15 at 21:23
  • @CreationEdge, what I meant was the same names on the deed...not the law office. There's a weird glitch here in this case: There was the original deed to your wife's mother, then the deed to the uncle that carved off a chunk, and likely, the subsequent deed to the buyers from the mother's estate hold a deed that says something to the effect of the "remainder" of the land after taking out the uncle's land. So, if his deed was not obviously wrong (i.e. clearly switching east for west, having a missing zero on a length so nothing adds up, etc.) the final buyer of the land will be out of luck. – dwoz Sep 22 '15 at 23:13
  • @CreationEdge, ergo, you signing a WARRANTY deed to the uncle just sets you up for a lawsuit to "make good" to the subsequent buyer, because they got warranty covenants too (probably). Don't go this alone, get a lawyer who knows nebraska deeds to weigh in. – dwoz Sep 22 '15 at 23:15

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