Title (property)

In property law, a title is a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document, such as a deed, that serves as evidence of ownership. Conveyance of the document may be required in order to transfer ownership in the property to another person. Title is distinct from possession, a right that often accompanies ownership but is not necessarily sufficient to prove it. In many cases, both possession and title may be transferred independently of each other. For real property, land registration and recording provide public notice of ownership information.

In United States law, typically evidence of title is established through title reports written up by title insurance companies, which show the history of title (property abstract and chain of title) as determined by the recorded public record deeds;[1] the title report will also show applicable encumbrances such as easements, liens, or covenants.[2] In exchange for insurance premiums, the title insurance company conducts a title search through public records and provides assurance of good title, reimbursing the insured if a dispute over the title arises.[3] In the case of vehicle ownership, a simple vehicle title document may be issued by a governmental agency.

The main rights in the title bundle are usually:

The rights in real property may be separated further, examples including:

Possession is the actual holding of a thing, whether or not one has any right to do so. The right of possession is the legitimacy of possession (with or without actual possession), the evidence for which is such that the law will uphold it unless a better claim is proven. The right of property is that right which, if all relevant facts were known (and allowed), would defeat all other claims. Each of these may be in a different person.

For example, suppose A steals from B, what B had previously bought in good faith from C, which C had earlier stolen from D, which had been an heirloom of D's family for generations, but had originally been stolen centuries earlier (though this fact is now forgotten by all) from E. Here A has the possession, B has an apparent right of possession (as evidenced by the purchase), D has the absolute right of possession (being the best claim that can be proven), and the heirs of E, if they knew it, have the right of property, which they cannot prove. Good title consists in uniting these three (possession, right of possession, and right of property) in the same person(s).

The extinguishing of ancient, forgotten, or unasserted claims, such as E's in the example above, was the original purpose of statutes of limitations. Otherwise, title to property would always be uncertain.

Equitable versus legal title

At common law equitable title is the right to obtain full ownership of property, where another maintains legal title to the property.[4]

When a contract for the sale of land is executed, equitable [interest/title] passes to the buyer. When the conditions on the sale contract have been met, legal title passes to the buyer in what is known as closing. Some companies, such as Econohomes/Visio Financial, use this term to describe a "trailing deed". This is not the case. Properties that are sold on the basis of equitable title have a legal chain of title intact, and a recorded transfer with the local municipality.

Legal title is actual ownership of the property as when the property has been bought, the seller paid in full and a deed or title is properly recorded. Equitable title separates from legal title upon the death of the legal title holder (owner). For example: When a person having legal title to property dies, heirs at law or beneficiaries per the last will, automatically receive equitable interest in the property. When an executor or administrator qualifies, that person acquires legal title, subject to divestment when the estate has been administered so as to allow for the lawful passing of the legal title to those having an equitable interest. The resulting merger of the legal and equitable gives rise to "perfect title," often referred to as marketable title.

Legal and equitable title also arises in trust. In a trust, one person may own the legal title, such as the trustees. Another may own the equitable title such as the beneficiary.[5]

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Deutsch: Titel (Recht)
norsk: Skjøte
norsk nynorsk: Skøyte
svenska: Lagfart
Türkçe: Tapu sicili