My father was recently told he was on a deed for his grandmothers house. She passed away in 1988. He was never notified or has seen any documents. The person living in the house wants him to sign his rights over. Who was responsible for notifying him 30 years ago. How can we obtain records? Is there any recourse for him not being notified?
If your father is the grantee on a deed, he can look it up online and see an image of the recorded deed. All registries in Massachusetts have websites to search by name and address. For example, if the property is located in Worcester County, just go to www.worcesterdeeds.com and click "search our documents" on the left side. Some property is registered land, so if nothing comes up on the recorded land side remember to also search the registered land side.
For wills, these are filed in the county where the decedent lived. You may not view the will online, but there are public terminals at the Registry of Probate to find the docket number of the probate case, and the file can be viewed in person and copies made of the will.
The deed is reseachable on www.masslandrecords.org. The will would still be filed at the probate and family in the county office in which the property is located. Your father should not sign over any rights until he determines the value. A home appraisal canrun up to $600 but may be priceless.
No answer provided by this attorney in this forum is to be considered legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created in responding to this question, and advice provided is based solely on very limited facts presented, and therefore may not be correct. You are advised that it is always best to contact a competent and experienced with the practice of law in the county in which you reside.
Deeds are accessible to the public through the local Register of Deeds (or an agency under a similar name, depending on the state), and a will can be found in the records of the local probate court where the estate was closed. Your father can look up or go see these documents himself, but he should have a real property or probate lawyer advise him before he does anything with respect to his putative interest in the family house. Whether other persons could be liable for not informing your father might depend on how title transferred to him; for example, if the house passed to him by deed, no one would be obligated to inform him, but under a will or trust, an executor or trustee, respectively, should have notified him in writing of his vested ownership interest. One of the questions your father should ask his lawyer is whether not informing him constituted a breach of fiduciary duty under Massachusetts state law. This kind of question will differ state to state, so local counsel should be accorded the most deference as to what appropriate steps should follow next. Use Avvo's "Find a Lawyer" feature to select a suitable lawyer in your local community. All the best to you and your family.
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