Start by contacting the local District Attorney, because most counties in California have real estate fraud units within the D.A. The units are funded by a special recording fee assessed on certain real estate documents like deeds.
Get certified copies of all the documents from the County Recorder, as these certified government documents are actually better than originals for evidentiary purposes.
You may or may not need to contact the Secretary of State concerning the Notary. Frankly, if they participated in the fraud you describe, then losing their notary seal will be the least of their troubles.
You may need to get a court order so you may proceed with your transaction. Also, you should have several civil claims against the wrongdoers, including fraud and slander of title. Be sure to consult with a local real estate lawyer experienced in dealing with issues of fraudulent transfers, forged instruments, slander of title, and so on.
Please note that, while I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer. This information is for general educational and informational purposes only, and is not legal advice. You should review your particular situation with a qualified lawyer of your choosing.
If this fraudulent deed is recorded, it is a cloud on your title that will have to be removed before you can close an escrow - at least where the buyer and lender are requiring title insurance. I am not sure what your realtor is talking about - a release form? I think he/she is mistaken. Start with getting a certified copy of the fraudulent deed, and then see a real estate attorney. Your attorney will have to file a complaint in Superior Court called "Quiet Title". You will be suing the Grantee named in the forged deed as well as the notary for fraud and slander of title. This is a lengthy process, so if you plan on selling the property, you should get started soon.
Richard A. Rodgers, Esq.
200 N. Westlake Blvd. Ste 201
Westlake Village, CA 91362
As stated in the AVVO.COM Terms and Conditions of Use, this answer is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship or privilige is created by this response.
Its really a question of whether you want the cow or the pig.
Let me explain. If you want the property to sell, then the release form they are wanting you to sign may release any claims you may have against anyone for the forgery. It sounds like this is what the realtor wants you do so they can close the sale and earn the commission. BUT if you sign a release that accepts all of the benefits of that deed, that could offer protection to the persons involved in the fraudulent signature. It comes down to where is the harm to you if you accepted and used that grant deed and were able to sell the property.
If you are losing something in the transaction because of this grant deed then that is a different animal (hence my analogy with animals above). It may not be to your benefit to sell at this time. Better to stop the sale and fix the problem the forged deed is causing. While you lose the sale, you will retain your rights to go after the culprits.
This is where a lawyer can really help you. Sit down with one of us and examine the numbers and see if there is real harm being caused in your situation. Karma has a way of catching up with people. You don't have to be the person delivering Karma at every wrongdoing. Pick your battles. But let a lawyer help you decide if this is one you need to fight.
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