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REAL ESTATE 56: A forged deed is not merely voidable, but void.

In June 2012, plaintiff purchased real property in Michigan. Over a year later plaintiff was arrested on federal charges related to drug trafficking. Since his arrest, plaintiff has remained incarcerated.

During his first week in jail, he was visited by the mother of his children and his adult son.  The mother testified that plaintiff told her that the property was supposed to be for plaintiff and his children and that he wanted the children to grow up there. The mother also testified that plaintiff wanted the property out of his name because he was concerned that the feds would seize it the way that they had taken his vehicle and other properties.

Quit Claim Deed

Less than a week after plaintiff was arrested on federal charges, a quitclaim deed purporting to transfer the property from plaintiff to the mother’s brother was signed and notarized at a UPS store.

The notary did not have any specific recollection of the transaction, but she testified that she has never notarized a document that she did not physically observe the person listed on the identification sign. Because plaintiff was incarcerated at the time the deed was signed and notarized, it was impossible for him to have been the individual who signed the deed purporting to transfer his property to the mother’s brother.

Sale of Property

In January 2016, the mother’s brother quit claimed the property to the mother. And, in October 2016, the mother contacted a realtor to sell the property.

In November 2016, defendant saw the property listing. The defendant testified that before making an offer, he was aware that there was an issue with the title. Both realtors and defendant anticipated that any problems with the title would be resolved by closing. The title commitment was completed by November 14, 2016. Both realtors testified that they received the title insurance commitment before closing and that the commitment did not reveal any issues with the title that needed to be resolved.

The property was inspected on December 2, 2016. The closing occurred on December 8, 2016. Three days earlier, on December 5, 2016, plaintiff’s friend recorded an affidavit with the Oakland County Register of Deeds asserting that plaintiff was in federal prison on the date the disputed deed was allegedly signed and contending that the deed was forged. Plaintiff also told the real estate agent not to sell the house because the house belonged to plaintiff, not the mother.

Defendant began residing in the Southfield house in early 2017. Subsequently, on October 2, 2017, plaintiff filed suit to quiet title to the property, claiming a superior interest above the mother’s brother, the mother, and defendant.

Quiet Title in Defendant’s Favor

Following the bench trial, the trial court reached its decision. It found that defendant was a bona fide purchaser who acted in good faith and that plaintiff had conceded as much. Ultimately, the trial court held that although plaintiff had not executed the disputed deed, he had orchestrated it because he had wanted the transaction to occur and, therefore, authorized the execution of the disputed deed. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s claim and entered a judgment quieting title in defendant’s favor.

The trial court found that plaintiff had orchestrated the transfer of the property to the mother’s brother with the aim of hiding the asset from the federal government. The court’s finding is supported by the timing of the transfer, which occurred within one week of plaintiff’s incarceration on the federal charges. That same week, plaintiff met with the mother and his adult son. The adult son’s name was the name on the identification used by the person who signed plaintiff’s name to the quitclaim deed.

Assistance with Quit Claim Deeds

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking resolution to a property litigation matter?

If you are facing a residential or commercial real estate issue, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services.

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