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Opinion of Title: What It Contains and Why You Need One

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Nov 03, 2021 | 0 Comments

The opinion of title outlines a property's real ownership to make it safe for all parties to proceed with business, and it's an absolute necessity for many real estate transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • You need an opinion of title to meet city or municipality requirements before subdivisions or combinations
  • A skilled real estate lawyer is better placed to guide you through a transaction
  • An opinion of title gives you peace of mind and assurance before proceeding with a transaction

Municipalities and cities across Florida require an opinion of title when developers want to split or combine property parcels. This critical document is also a legal necessity when investors want to get mortgages. 

Fortunately, Florida has many competent attorneys who can help you get an opinion of title. This essential statement outlines a property's real ownership to make it safe for all parties. For example, buyers want to ensure that they aren't buying a disputed property. Lenders also want to be sure they're not going to lose their money funding a fraudulently owned property. 

So, what does this vital document contain? Why should you work with an attorney before signing the dotted line? This post answers those questions, so stay on this page to learn more.

What is an opinion of title?

An opinion of title is a report a lawyer writes to attest to a title deed's validity to a piece of property. It shows that the attorney has carefully reviewed the property's records in the county where it's located. A lawyer gathers all these facts after conducting a title search. This legal report shows all the interested parties any possible defects, easements, or encroachments with the title. 

This opinion has many uses, but the main ones focus on these processes:

  • Property purchase
  • Lien status verification
  • Ownership search

Eventually, all interested parties get peace of mind knowing that they are entering a safe deal.

What does an opinion of title include?

So, what does this vital letter contain? As earlier stated, this report is based on careful research a lawyer conducts. It isn't their personal opinion that depends on what they feel or think about the title at hand. Instead, it contains conclusions the attorney arrives at after diligent and careful search. This letter includes the following. 

  • A statement of opinion: This statement outlines the details of what the lawyer found during their search. 
  • Examined records: It details the documents and records analyzed before arriving at this opinion.
  • Any existing detects: The report also contains any defects the lawyer found against the title.

Top 5 issues an opinion of title can identify 

An opinion of title gives interested parties peace of mind before committing their money to a deal. It's the attorney's job to find every issue that could bungle the deal or lead to regret after signing it. Here are five common defects that an opinion of title should surface before any transaction.

1. Chain of title

A statement of opinion tracks a property's ownership from the current owner to its previous owners. This search ensures that the current owner is not a fraudster and that the property was handed down between owners legally and correctly.

For example, the search can detect if one of the party's signatures is missing in the conveyance and the attorney will disclose if other interested owners might come and claim the property. In this case, a title opinion reflects such discrepancies and allows for correction before finalizing the deal.

2. Invalid power of attorney

Property owners issue a power of attorney (POA) to allow others to sign documents for them. These powers can be broad or limited, depending on what the grantor wants to delegate. A title opinion validates that the document a power of attorney signed was within their delegated POA. The opinion also verifies that the POA endorsed the document accurately. 

3. Probate matters

Thousands of Americans die without last wills. After such deaths, challenges are likely to arise regarding the deceased person's property ownership. Also, some property heirs challenge a will's validity. In this case, an opinion of title reveals if the contested will has been or is in probate. It also discloses any litigation surrounding the property by interested heirs.

4. Easements

The opinion also identifies if the property owner granted any business, group, or business an easement. Most property owners grant easements for extended periods. These granted rights might prevent an owner from utilizing their property in some ways. An opinion title informs a new buyer about any existing easements, their extent, and how they could affect property usage.

5. Liens and judgments

Lastly, an opinion statement reveals if the parcel of property has any liens or judgments filed against it. It discloses if the owner had some economic challenges that caused liens. It also shows if the property owner funded it using a Deed of Trust. Otherwise, selling the property with these challenges can transfer the burden of responsibility to the new owner. Common tax liens buyers or lenders should be wary of are construction, tax, and HOA fees. 

Why you need an attorney's helping hand throughout the journey

So far, we've seen how critical this document is. However, the opinion is just as good or bad as its giver. Your attorney's quality, skills, and experience come in handy. Here are the reasons you need an excellent attorney to help you throughout this process before and after purchase.

  • Your real estate attorney advises you on all third-party obligations, including real estate brokers, title agents, and brokers.
  • A real estate attorney also counsels you on the implications of various covenants and agreements you enter into with third parties. Such agreements include contracts, disclosures, and broker listing agreements.
  • Your property lawyer counsels you on potential challenges and their consequences. They also show you possible liabilities as a buyer. 
  • A real estate lawyer also explains the entire conveyance process, closing, and settlement papers in simple language.
  • You need your property attorney even after signing the dotted line to help handle potential defaulting or disputes.  

Opinion of title: closing remarks 

Investing in commercial real estate or buying a home is smart and worth every dollar. However, the process has grave legal implications that require careful consideration. 

Thankfully, the PeytonBolin legal team helps you navigate all of that safely. Do you want to be sure that your next deal is safe before signing the dotted line? Don't hesitate to contact our office today to get an opinion of title.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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