Register of Deeds

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What help can the Register of Deeds office provide for drafting real estate documents?

I have been told I need to get a legal description of my property.  Where may I obtain one?

I paid off a Federal Income Tax Lien, but it still appears on my credit report.  Why?

We recently paid off the mortgage on our home.  When will we get a new deed showing that we no longer owe the bank anything?

I am considering purchasing a parcel of real estate.  How can I find out what liens, if any, have been filed against it?

Can I do my own title search?

Can the Register of Deeds tell me if I have clear title?

How do I change my deed so that it reflects my married name?

If one trustee of a trust dies, is it necessary to take any immediate action?

If I purchase property that is from a larger parcel that is being split, will I receive a tax bill?


What help can the Register of Deeds office provide for drafting real estate documents?

The Register of Deeds office is charged with the duty of being an independent custodian of records relating to real estate.  As such, the only area in which we can offer assistance is with general processing questions.  We cannot assist you with the actual drafting of documents.  We highly recommend that you obtain legal counsel for these transactions.

Although several legal documents have been developed into fill-in-the-blank style forms and appear to be very easily completed, it is the answers to those fill-in-the-blank questions that are critically important.  The appropriate answers can vary widely from person to person.  Determining the correct answer for your situation constitutes legal advice.  We are not licensed to practice real estate law.  Furthermore, our role as custodian of the records prohibits us from assisting in the creation of the records.

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I have been told I need to get a legal description of my property.  Where may I obtain one?

The legal description of your property appears on your deed.

While this seems simple enough, it can be complicated by two factors.  If your property consists of a number of small parcels that have been combined over time, a simple concise legal description may not exist.  The opposite can also be a problem.  Your property may previously have been a large parcel from which smaller parcels were sold off.  In both of these cases, several documents and some interpretation may be required to construct a legal description.

If the history of your parcel fits into either of the above categories, you should contact a registered land surveyor for professional assistance in writing an accurate, up-to-date legal description.

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I paid off a Federal Income Tax Lien, but it still appears on my credit report.  Why?

While Federal Income Tax Liens are recorded in the Register of Deeds office, we have no jurisdiction over the lien itself or any release documentation once the lien is satisfied.  We cannot record a Release unless one is presented to us for recording.

The IRS changed their procedures several years ago and now consider their liens to be "self-releasing" after a certain number of years.  As a result they do not record Release of Lien documents as they did in the past.  

It is our observation that credit-reporting agencies generally do not read documents.  They only look at the index and may be unaware of the self-releasing feature.  However, if you contact the IRS, their staff may prepare a Certificate of Release that you can record which should clear your credit report.  Contact the manager in charge of preparation of federal tax liens at 1-800-913-6050. 

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We recently paid off the mortgage on our home.  When will we get a new deed showing that we no longer owe the bank anything?

If you glance at your deed, you will notice that your name appears as "grantee", but the bank is never mentioned.  That means that when you pay your mortgage in full it is not necessary to update your deed.

What does need to be done is to have a Satisfaction of Mortgage document recorded with the Register of Deeds office.  Financial institutions are required to record such a document within a specified timeframe.  If you receive a Satisfaction of Mortgage endorsed by a Register of Deeds with a time, date and document number, nothing further needs to be done.  If you have not received the endorsed satisfaction, you should check with your lender to be certain they processed the appropriate paperwork.

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I am considering purchasing a parcel of real estate.  How can I find out what liens, if any, have been filed against it?

If you are borrowing money from a financial institution in order to purchase the real estate, a title search will be ordered by that financial institution well in advance of the closing.  This search will reveal any outstanding liens.

If no financial institution is involved, then you will want to contract directly with a title company for a complete title search.

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Can I do my own title search?

Strictly speaking, the answer is "yes".  Practically speaking, however, the answer is probably "no".

The records in the Register of Deeds office are open for public inspection.  However, unless you are familiar with how real estate records are organized and the procedures to perform a Grantor/Grantee and a Tract Index search, it is recommended to hire a title company to perform the search.  Additionally, there may be documents on file with other county offices that may impact the property in which you are interested. 

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Can the Register of Deeds tell me if I have clear title?

No.  The Register of Deeds office is not authorized to render opinions regarding the status of title.  Professional title examiners use the records in our office as well as searching records in other county offices to determine if the title is free and clear of encumbrances.

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How do I change my deed so that it reflects my married name?

This question is more complex than it first appears.  In its simplest form, you are not required to take any action.  When you sell your property, you can simply indicate on the deed your former and current names such as:  "Mary Smith n/k/a (now known as) Mary Jones." 

However, there are many other details that might impact the answer to this question, the most important being Wisconsin’s Marital Property law.  This law assumes that property used by a couple during the course of a marriage is jointly owned unless specified otherwise.  If you wish to remain the sole owner of the property and do not intend to convey any interest in the property to your spouse, steps must be taken prior to and during your marriage to assure that this occurs.  If, however, you intend for your spouse to share in the ownership of the property, there are a number of ways a married couple can hold title, each having distinct legal implications.

As you can see, it is best to seek the help of an attorney to draft a deed that will accomplish your goals.

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If one trustee of a trust dies, is it necessary to take any immediate action?

According to a member of the Probate and Real Property Section of the Wisconsin State Bar Association, the answer is "no."  The trust remains in effect.  However, it is prudent to review the trust with your attorney periodically to determine if modifications to the trust would be advisable.

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If I purchase property that is from a larger parcel that is being split, will I receive a tax bill?

The owner of the property as of January 1st of the real estate taxing year will receive a tax bill on the entire parcel of land (including the portion you just purchased).  You will not receive a tax bill for the portion you purchased until the following year.  Taxes should be prorated at your closing to distribute the taxes between owners for the current tax year.  Pursuant to s.70.10 of Wisconsin Statutes:  "The assessor shall assess all real and personal property as of the close of January 1 of each year."  This means that a split that occurs during the year will not have an assessed value assigned to it until January 1st of the following year.     

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