Thursday, October 26, 2017

Future Technology at the Registry of Deeds

I recently came across a list I made in 2014 titled "Future Capabilities of Registry of Deeds." Here is what it said:

Make all search functions compatible with tablets and smart phones;

Document images and corresponding plans should be linked together for ease of usage;

Use OCR technology to do full text search of recorded documents which would allow retrieval of relevant documents even though name or address was not contained in index;

Greater data analysis and reporting capabilities built into computer system including ability to create Google Map-type mashups of data and maps;

Ability to take payment from walk-in customers by credit or debit card;

Link together electronic holdings of registries of deeds, local assessors, Mass GIS and other agencies to provide citizens with one stop shopping for land-related information.

This still looks like a good list. We are making progress towards several of the items as we enter the early stages of our search for the next generation registry of deeds computer system.

Monday, October 23, 2017

2018 Deed Indexing Standards DRAFT

The Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association will release a new version of the Deed Indexing Standards on January 1, 2018. The current 2018 DRAFT is available online for your review. The Association invites your comments. Please send them to me at or by traditional mail to Richard Howe, Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, 360 Gorham St, Lowell MA 01852.

To allow us to incorporate your suggestions into the final version of the standards, please send your comments by this Thanksgiving.

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.