Hi, I’m Jean Fair with the Fair Law Group. And, today, I’ll be talking about one of the major perils of using online forms for your legal documents: the legal property description.

If you’ve done any amount of research on the Texas ladybird deed or other means of transferring real property, you’ve probably seen those advertisements for services offering blank deed forms that you fill out and complete yourself. When it comes to those online forms, any attorney, myself included, will tell you no; stay away, don’t do it, and that’s not just because we’d reather have you pay us to do it for you, though we won’t complain about that. It’s because it’s too easy to mess up the legal property description of the property you’re trying to transfer.

The legal description is not the property’s address. If you look at any deed in Texas, the legal description will usually say something about a lot, block number, plat number in such-and-such subdivision, according to this in that survey. There is usually a volume and page number or sometimes even a document number referencing where the map or plat of the property can be found in the deed records of the county where the property is located. It’s this legal description, not the address, that actually dictates what property is being transferred by the deed. So, it’s vital that this property description is correct because if it’s not, then the deed you’re using to try to transfer the property could actually be ineffective, even if you have a copy of the last deed for your property and that deed has a legal description on it. There’s no guarantee that the legal description is correct or complete, even if an attorney drafted that deed.

We recently did a ladybird deed for a client and he provided us with a copy of the last deed for that property which included a legal description. So, we were checking that legal description against the county records just to make sure that it was correct before we included it in our ladybird deed for him. And, the volume and page numbers that were listed on that legal description were not pulling up the map or plat records that they should have been in the county’s online records. So, we were thinking, “Oh Lord, the property description’s not correct, now not only can we not do the ladybird deed for this guy right now, now we have to call him back and tell him that the first deed he had is incorrect because the property description is wrong and we’re gonna have to do a correction deed first before we can do the ladybird deed.” And, we thought it was gonna be just this whole mess, but fortunately, that’s not what was happening. In this particular county, when they transferred everything from the old deed records, which were kept in the big leather-bound books in hard copies, and when they taken those records and started with online records, they started their volume and page numbering systems over again.

So, the old deed that our client had were still referencing the volume and page numbers from the old hard copy records, not the new digital records that we were searching through online. But, we figured out what was going on and in the deed we wrote up for our client, we ended up referencing both sets of document records, both volumes and page numbers, both the hard copies and the new digital records, so that anyone doing title research in the future doesn’t run into the same thing we did and think that they’re dealing with an improper property description when it’s just a difference in the volume and page numbers because the county decided to restart their numbering system over.

The moral of the story: even though the property description that was that original deed our client had given us was correct, if that was all we had used, then any title company doing research on that property in the future to see if they were going to issue title insurance on it woulnd’t have seen everything they would need to know to connect the old records to the new records and see that the chain of title was clear. Therefore, the title company might have been reluctant to issue title insurance, which is why it’s absolutely vital that the property description is not only correct, but complete enough to give anyone doing title research a full idea of the chain of title. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a title company that may not be based here in Texas because Texas is one of a handful of states that uses the ladybird deed. People who aren’t from Texas might not know what it is and might already be reluctant to issue title insurance on it, especially if they run into a situation like I just described and think that the property description may not be correct. So, make sure those property descriptions are right. That’s all for now.