Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Add a name to my deed"

The email link on comes directly to me, so I'm the person who answers all of our incoming customer questions. This inquiry from earlier today contains two of the most commonly held misconceptions about real estate:

My house on Worcester, MA was paid off already but I would like to add my sister as co-owner to my deed. What will I do? Do I need or her to pay any fee or tax for add her name on deed? If have, how much for tax and fee? When will I receive original deed after I paid off mortgage? Do I need lawyer for add her name on deed? If have, how much for hire lawyer? Please help me.


Here's my response:


You raise a couple of issues:

(1) documents for Worcester are recorded in the Worcester Registry of Deeds, not here in Lowell. the Worcester website is

(2) We do not hold your deed as security until you pay off your mortgage. That's a common misunderstanding held by many homeowners. When you bought your property, you or your lawyer would have been given back your original deed once the registry made an official copy of it. If you do not have your original deed, you can obtain a certified copy of it from the registry of deeds. The certified copy has the same legal effect as the original.

(3) As for making your sister a co-owner of the property, it's not correct to say that you will "add her name to the deed." What you have to do is convey an interest in the property to her. You do that by signing and then recording a new deed. The new deed would say something like "BROTHER grants the property to SISTER and BROTHER . . ." Creating a deed can be very complicated and given the value of the asset involved, it's always best to hire a lawyer to create the deed for you. I don't know how much a lawyer would charge but it should not be on the low end of whatever lawyers charge to do things. Once the deed is created, signed and notarized, it will have to be recorded. The recording fee payable to the registry for a deed is $125. Massachusetts also imposes a tax on the sale of real estate but that tax is based on the sales price. If this transfer is a gift - that is, your sister is not paying you anything for it - then there would be no tax.

I'm not sure if this is just real estate inside baseball, but I think anything that we collectively can do to raise the legal aptitude of homeowners, it's of benefit to everyone.

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