Unrecorded Deed Immediately Transferred Ownership

Lesson.  An unrecorded quitclaim deed executed and delivered during owner’s lifetime terminated a beneficiary’s interest under a “transfer on death” deed that had been executed previously.  An Indiana deed generally will effect a transfer regardless of whether it is recorded.

Case cite.  Robinson v. Robinson, 125 N.E.3d 1 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019).

Legal issue.  Whether subsequent, unrecorded quitclaim deed revoked a beneficial interest in real estate that previously had been created by a recorded transfer on death (TOD) deed.

Vital facts.  On October 24, 2014, Mom executed a TOD deed in which the fee simple title in her house would transfer, upon her death, to her kids Rea and Radley as tenants in common.  Mom recorded that deed on November 12, 2014.  Two years later, Mom executed and delivered a quitclaim deed of the house to Rea only, effective immediately.  However, this subsequent deed was not recorded until after Mom died.

Procedural history.  Radley filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce the TOD deed.  The trial court entered summary judgment in Radley’s favor and concluded that Radley and Rea owned the house as tenants in common.  Rea appealed.

Key rules.  Indiana has a statute called the Transfer on Death Property Act (ACT) at 32-17-14.  The Indiana Court of Appeals sliced and diced the Act in terms of its application to the Robinson dispute. 

The TOD deed was valid.  However, Section 19(a) of the Act provides, among other things, that a beneficiary of a TOD deed takes the owner’s interest in the property at the time of the owner’s death and subject to all conveyances made by the owner during the owner’s lifetime.

Indiana Code 32-21-1-15 controls quitclaim deeds.

In Indiana, generally “a party to a deed is bound by the instrument whether or not it is recorded.”

Holding.  The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment for Radley and entered summary judgment for Rea.  “As a matter of law, Radley’s contingent interest in the real estate was extinguished before [Mom’s] death.” 

Policy/rationale.  If you have probate and estate issues under the Act, the Robinson opinion has a nice explanation of why the TOD deed did not hold up.  For purposes of mortgage servicing and title issues, the key takeaway is that, as to Radley (one of potential co-owners under the TOD deed), the quitclaim deed to Rea cut off Radley’s beneficial interest - even though the deed was never recorded.  The deed complied with Ind. Code 32-21-1-15.  Title passed.  The fact that the deed had not been recorded was immaterial to Radley’s claim to ownership.

Related posts. 

*Don’t Forget To Record The Deed

*Sampling Of Indiana Deed Law, And Judgment Lien Attachment Issues

*In Indiana, An Unrecorded Mortgage Has Priority Over A Subsequent Judgment Lien

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I represent lenders, loan servicers, borrowers, and guarantors in foreclosure and real estate-related disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.  


Deeds In Lieu Of Foreclosure: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

In the event a loan becomes non-performing, commercial lending institutions that hold mortgages in Indiana need to be familiar with deeds in lieu of foreclosure.  They are a form of settlement.

Who.  The parties to a deed in lieu are the mortgagor (generally, the borrower) and the mortgagee (usually, the lender).  Both sides must consent.  Most lawyers will say that it isn't advisable to accept a deed in lieu if there are multiple lien holders.  Lenders will have to negotiate releases of those liens in order to secure clear title.  The better approach may be to proceed with foreclosure, which will wipe out such liens.   

What.  A deed in lieu of foreclosure is a document that conveys title to real estate.  What is unique about this particular deed is that the mortgagor surrenders its interests in the real estate to the mortgagee in consideration for a complete release from liabilities under the loan documents.  The release, among other things, usually is articulated in a separate settlement agreement.  But, a release is not automatic.  

When.  Lenders normally pursue deeds in lieu when there is no chance of collecting a deficiency judgment - the mortgagor is judgment proof.  For example, this option makes sense with non-recourse loans.  Another consideration is when the value of the property unquestionably exceeds the amount of the debt.  If the lender thinks it may be able to liquidate the real estate for more than the borrower owes, pursuing a money judgment may be superfluous.

The parties typically will explore a deed in lieu of foreclosure early on in the dispute - once a determination is made by the lender to foreclose.  Although this is the point in which deeds in lieu are best utilized, in Indiana it's possible to execute the deed right up until the time the property is sold at a sheriff's sale.

Where.  Deeds in lieu are the product of out-of-court settlements.  The process of the securing of a deed in lieu is non-judicial. 

Why.  The fundamental reasons why a lender may want to take a deed in lieu of foreclosure involve time and money.  A deed in lieu grants to the lender immediate possession of the real estate.  Several months, conceivably years, can be saved.  Just as importantly, spending thousands of dollars, primarily in attorney's fees, could be avoided by cutting to the chase with a deed in lieu.  Expediency and expense are the primary factors that motivate lenders to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure. 

How.  Other than the obvious - executing a deed - there are certain steps a lender should consider taking before it enters into a deed in lieu.  The lender should know whether it is acquiring clear title.  A title insurance policy commitment should be ordered to examine the status of any liens, taxes and other potential clouds on title.  Work also may need to be done to get a handle on the value of the property.  This may include an appraisal, an inspection or an environmental assessment.  These things generally are recommended when evaluating how to proceed with any distressed loan.

    Anti-merger clause:  One potential land mine must be specifically highlighted here.  Without getting too technical, in Indiana there needs to be language in the deed protecting against a merger of the mortgagor's fee simple title and the mortgagee's lien interest, which merger could extinguish the mortgagee's rights under the mortgage.  Without the appropriate language expressing the intent of the parties in the deed, the lender's interest in the property could become subject to junior liens without the right to foreclose.  So, be sure that you or your lawyer inserts an anti-merger clause into the deed.

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My practice includes the representation of parties in disputes arising out of loans. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page. 


Top 10 Foreclosure Blogs

The Founder of Feedspot has advised that Indiana Commercial Foreclosure Law is ranked second in its Top 10 listing of foreclosure-related blogs.  Here is a link to the site's list:  Top 10 Foreclosure Blogs & Websites To Follow in 2019.  Thanks to the folks at Feedspot for recognizing my work. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to those who regularly read, or surf to, this blog.  Let's keep it going in 2020....

John   


Reminder - On 1/1/20, Amended Indiana Trial Rule 9.2(A) Becomes Effective - But Uncertainty Remains

Hard to believe it's already been two years since the Indiana Supreme Court amended Rule 9.2(A).  The amendment goes into effect in matter of days.  Given that the clock is ticking, lately clients and colleagues have been talking about its potential impact, but my understanding is that nothing substantive has changed with the rule since the outcome in 2017. 

With respect to mortgage foreclosures, I'm not sure anyone has a great handle on what to do.  I personally still feel that a strong argument can be made that the affidavits called for under the new rule only need to be filed with complaints articulating an action “on account” and that a mortgage foreclosure, or any other action to enforce a promissory note, is no such action. 

What follows is a verbatim re-print of my 11/17/17 post, which includes a link to my initial post of 5/11/17 on the rule.

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Back in May, I submitted this post: Claim “On An Account” Vs. Enforcement Of A Loan: Comments On Proposed Amendment to Indiana Trial Rule 9.2(A). One of my points was that the proposal left open the question of whether the rule applied solely to accounts, or to both loans and accounts. Indeed my post doubled as a submission to the Rules Committee recommending, among other things, language clarifying that the new rule does not (and should not) apply to loans, other than perhaps credit card debt.

New rule. On October 31st, the Indiana Supreme Court entered its official Order Amending Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure that included amendments to Rule 9.2. Here is the order signed by Chief Justice Rush. Regrettably, the amendment did not incorporate our proposed limiting language or otherwise resolve the matter of whether a plaintiff must file the new affidavit of debt in mortgage foreclosure cases. For reasons spelled out in my May 11th post, a strong argument still can be made that the affidavits only need to be filed with complaints articulating an action “on account” and that a mortgage foreclosure, or any other action to enforce a promissory note, is no such action. Admittedly, however, the situation remains clouded.

Consumer debts only. One critical change the Supreme Court made from the proposed rule was to limit the pleading requirement in Section (A)(2) to consumer debts. The rule’s requirement for the new affidavit applies only “if … the claim arises from a debt that is primarily for personal, family, or household purposes…” This is a common phrase in the law that identifies consumer claims and that excludes commercial/business debts. See my 12/18/09 and 11/16/06 posts. Thus the Supreme Court’s insertion of that language definitively means that Rule 9.2(A)(2) does not apply to commercial foreclosures or to the collection of business debts.

Effective date. It will be interesting to see how lawyers and judges interpret and apply Rule 9.2(A)(2), which is brand new. Again, and meaning no disrespect whatsoever, I think the Supreme Court left the scope of that subsection open for debate. We have time to digest this further as the amendment does not take effect for over two years - until January 1, 2020.

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My practice includes the representation of parties in disputes arising out of loans. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page. 


Domesticating Foreign Judgments Under Indiana's New Electronic Filing System

If you own a money judgment entered in a state other than Indiana, and if you believe that the judgment debtor (the defendant) has assets in Indiana that might be available to satisfy the judgment, then you can take steps to domesticate that “foreign judgment” in Indiana and enforce it through the Indiana court system. 

Indiana’s StatuteIndiana Code § 34-54-11 provides the procedural roadmap for Indiana’s domestication process.  First, you must wait 21 days after the judgment was entered in the original jurisdiction before filing in Indiana.  Once the 21 days have passed, you need to file a copy of the foreign judgment, authenticated in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1963 or any applicable Indiana statutes, in the clerk’s office of any Indiana county.  Generally, it makes sense to file in a county where some or all the judgment debtor’s assets are located.  At the same time, you will need to file an affidavit, executed by the judgment creditor (the plaintiff), which states (a) the name and last known address of the judgment debtor and (b) the name and address of the judgment creditor.  Finally, you will need to mail notice of the filing of the foreign judgment to the judgment debtor and file proof of that mailing with the clerk of the Indiana court.

Electronic Filing Glitches.  All of this should be a fairly straightforward process, but under Indiana’s relatively new electronic filing system, there are a couple of potential problems to avoid if your goal is to seek the court’s help in enforcing your domesticated judgment or, in other words, if you anticipate so-called proceedings supplemental.

    Tip 1:  Always file your case under the “MI” designation if you plan to use the Indiana court to execute on the judgment.  

        If your purpose for domesticating the foreign judgment is to enlist the help of the Indiana court in executing on the judgment, as opposed to merely perfecting a judgment lien on real estate, it is essential that you choose the “MI” (miscellaneous) case type during the electronic filing process.  This can be confusing because the list of available case types indicates that foreign judgments should be filed under the “CB” (court business) case type.  You should not choose the “CB” filing type.

        “CB” filings are used for informational purposes only.  We have learned that, if you file your case under a “CB” designation, you will be notifying the Indiana court that you own a judgment, but you will not be able to enlist the court’s help in executing on that judgment.  In other words, no further proceedings may be conducted in that action (lawsuit).  If your goal in domesticating the foreign judgment is to initiate proceedings supplemental and, ultimately, to reach the judgment debtor’s Indiana assets in order to satisfy the judgment, a “CB” filing will get you nowhere.    

    Tip 2:  Always check to make sure that your judgment is reflected on the court’s docket as a final judgment.

        Once you have followed the steps established in I.C. 34-54-11-2, your foreign judgment has the same effect and is subject to the same procedures as any other judgment entered by an Indiana court.  However, you want to ensure that your judgment is formally “of record” and thus creates a perfected lien on any real estate owned by the judgment debtor in that county.  The judgment thus needs to be officially entered on the court’s docket.  In Indiana, this docket is known as the “CCS” or the chronological case summary.  You want the judgment to pop up on public record searches and provide the requisite notice to the world that there is an unsatisfied money judgment against the debtor/defendant.  Here is an example.

    The rub.  Before electronic filing, staff at the county court’s or clerk’s offices manually entered domesticated judgments into an actual hard copy index (public record).  Now, under electronic filing, our experience is that such manual entry no longer occurs in many if not all counties.  It seems that there is no established automatic mechanism for 21st Century judgments to make their way into an official judgment docket.  Therefore, in order to ensure that your judgment can be found in a title or debtor search, we recommend that you follow-up with the clerk of the court to ensure someone takes the final step of creating the entry of judgment on the CCS so that it is visible online.  We have had cases where this has not occurred as a matter of course and have had to either ask that it be done by phone or file a motion to prompt the court to take the final step. 

As a practical matter, the previously established laws and systems simply have not caught up electronic filing.  We would expect this glitch to be sorted out by the Indiana General Assembly or the Indiana Supreme Court at some point down the road, however. 

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I'd like to thank my colleague Jere Rosebrock for her valuable research, investigation and input into this post. Among many other things, Jere helps me and others at the Firm to domesticate foreign judgments for our clients and out-of-state counsel.  If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call us at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.


In Property Revitalization Case, Court Declines To Impose Receivership On Owner Of Common Areas

Lesson. A receivership can be a powerful remedy but only will be granted in unique situations, unless it is a mortgage foreclosure case.

Case cite. Towne & Terrace v. City of Indianapolis, 122 N.E.3d 846 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019).

Legal issue. Whether a receiver should have been appointed in a nuisance/unsafe property case.

Vital facts. Towne & Terrace involved a dispute between the City of Indianapolis (City) and Town and Terrace (T&T), a corporation that developed a condominium complex at 42nd and Post in 1964. Due to crime in the area, in 2014 the City filed a public nuisance suit against T&T for, among other things, safety-related concerns in the complex, including poor conditions in the common areas. The litigation later evolved into a receivership proceeding in which both sides sought the appointment of a receiver for various purposes. The litigation was complicated by the fact that, at the time of the courts’ decisions, the City owned portions of the property, T&T owned portions (mainly common areas), and third parties owned other portions. Please read the opinion for a more in-depth summary of the factual and legal issues in the case, of which there were many. One element of the case dealt with the trial court’s effort to create a public-private partnership to rebuild and recreate “a safe and thriving T&T neighborhood.”

Procedural history. This post relates to the trial court’s order granting the City's motion to appoint a receiver over the property owned and controlled by T&T within the complex.  The trial court ordered both the City and T&T to pay for the receiver’s services, which were to upgrade, repair, and restore the common areas in the complex.

Key rules. Indiana Code 32-30-5 is our state’s general receivership statute. Subsection (7) [aka the “catch all” provision] provides that a receiver may be appointed in cases “as may be provided by law or where, in the discretion of the court, it may be necessary to secure ample justice to the parties.”

Indiana common law provides that "a receiver should not be appointed if the plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law [basically, money damages] or by way of temporary injunction.”

Holding. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the appointment of a receiver over T&T, specifically the property T&T owned.

Policy/rationale. T&T did not own any structures in the complex. Thus, T&T’s involvement was limited to common areas that it managed. There was no evidence that those common areas were “so deteriorated that they contribute to the undesirable activities at the complex….” Moreover, T&T had not violated any ordinances or statutes. Because the “extreme necessity” for a receiver did not exist, the Court declined to appoint one. My guess is that an unstated rationale in play was that T&T did not want to fund the receivership and was able to convince the Court of Appeals that it should not have to. Receivers do not work for free.

Related posts.

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My practice includes the representation of lenders and borrowers, as well as receivers, entangled in real estate-related cases. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.