Reconstructing House Deeds – Probate Case Study

08 April 2019

Our Probate specialists were instructed to act on an Estate where in transpired that the title deeds were missing for the deceased's property. We conducted extensive searches and reconstructed the missing property deeds, so that one of the beneficiaries was able to buy the property from the Estate.

Client Situation

Mr P instructed Co-op Legal Services to administer the Estate of his late mother-in-law. Among other assets, the Estate comprised of a property which, as per the terms of the Will, was left to the deceased's two daughters in equal shares. The Beneficiaries decided to sell the property and Mrs J, one of the daughters, decided to purchase it from the Estate, being already entitled to half of it.

Properties that have been bought or sold in the last few decades are likely to be registered at HM Land Registry. The Land Registry has kept a record of land and property ownership since the enactment of the Law of Property Act 1925. More recently, registration became compulsory whenever a property was bought or sold.

However, some properties and land have been owned by the same family and passed down for generations and are still unregistered. Ascertaining whether a property is registered or not can be done by contacting HM Land Registry or simply by visiting their website. Selling an unregistered property will now trigger first registration, however, the seller must produce the original title deeds. This is because the deeds represent proof of ownership.

For more information on how property sale works when the title deeds are missing, see What To Do if You Can't Find the Property Title Deeds.

How We Helped

The difficulty arose when the original title deeds appeared to have been lost by the bank with which they were deposited in the 1960s. This meant that we needed to reconstruct the deeds in order to proceed with the sale. We had to request extensive searches do be completed by various branches of the bank before the deeds were declared lost. We obtained compensation for the client from the bank in the form of them covering the costs for reconstructing the deeds.

What followed was an application to the Land Registry for the property to be registered in the name of the deceased. This was done by filing an ST3 form. This form provides all the information such as how, when and where the original deeds were stored, how they were lost or destroyed, and what steps have been taken to locate the deeds.

The application was successful and our Probate specialists managed to register the property at HM Land Registry. This enabled the property sale to proceed.

The Outcome

Mrs J therefore successfully purchased the property from the Estate. Mrs J obtained a mortgage in order to introduce funds to the Estate, equating to half the property value and the other half of the property she was already entitled to. These funds were then distributed to the other beneficiary in order to technically buy her share of the property. All parties were therefore happy with the outcome and that we were able to fulfil their wishes.

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