When a loved one dies, it can take months or even years for his or her home to transfer through probate. If our loved one moves into a nursing home, his or her home may not be a priority as you make sure he or she is settled. During this time, you need to get back to our own life and may leave the home unoccupied for some time.
When you are able to get around to dealing with the home, you may discover someone is now living in it and claims to own it. How did your loved one's home end up stolen?
How did this happen?
Stealing deeds from deceased or otherwise incapacitated people is a form of identity theft. Individuals who perpetrate this particular crime find homes that have not been occupied for some time and will take possession of the property illegally through a forged deed. The following lists the basics of how this process works:
- The would-be thief does a search of the public records to locate unoccupied homes.
- He or she asks people in the neighborhood about the house and its former owner to determine whether anyone takes care of the home or lives there.
- If satisfied that no one will come back for the home, the thief then creates a fake deed and forges the signature of the former owner.
- He or she will then need a notary seal to legitimize the deed, which he or she can forge or obtain from a questionable notary.
- At this point, the thief makes him or herself the grantee of the deed. If he or she doesn't use his or her real name, he or she may use a fictitious or stolen identity and then transfer the property into his or her real name to create another layer of separation from the original forgery.
- Then all the thief has to do is record the deed with the county clerk and pay the recording fee.
If the thief does his or her job correctly, you may not find out about the subterfuge until you take steps to prepare the home for sale. When you go to the recording office to find out what happened, you obtain a copy of the forged deed. You may ask why no one at the clerk's office questioned the filing, but it is not the clerk's job to verify the truth of the documents filed with the office.
At this point, you will certainly need some legal assistance in order to sort out the situation. An experienced Texas real estate attorney could prove invaluable in that endeavor.