Monday, October 02, 2017

Deed of Distribution

Recently someone asked me if we see many deeds of distribution here at the registry of deeds. We don't. I scrolled through nearly 1500 deeds recorded this year and only found one clearly labeled Deed of Distribution.

Historically, when an heir or devisee under a will inherited real property from the deceased, the documentary evidence of that transfer of ownership was the papers of the probate estate. A practical problem with this system was that it left a hole in the records of the registry of deeds. Someone searching a title would lose the thread of ownership because there would be nothing in the index or the record books of the registry showing the transfer to the heirs. Instead, the researcher would have to visit the registry of probate to see if there had been an estate filed for the owner of the property.

With the enactment of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 190B, the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Act, in 2012, a number of areas of Massachusetts probate law were enacted. One was something called a Deed of Distribution which is not so much a deed that constitutes the transfer of ownership, but a type of memorandum that documents the transfer of ownership that took place on account of a death.

Because of the scarcity of Deeds of Distribution in the registry of deeds records, I assume that probate lawyers have been slow to adopt this innovation. That is unfortunate, because the deed of distribution does fill a gap in the records of the registry of deeds.