8 Grandview Circle
Phone: (724)-485-5900
Fax: (412)-202-7525






Abstract of Title - a historical summary of all the recorded instruments and proceedings that affect the title of property

Abstract Plant* - A set of records of all the recorded instruments in a county grouped geographically by land description Arranged so that all instruments affecting a piece of land can be immediately found under the index heading of such land

Abstracter* - the person or company making abstracts

Abstracter's Certificate* - A certificate appearing at the end of an abstract showing time period covered and the public records which have been searched.

Abstract Updated* - Making current an existing but old abstract of title by adding to it copies of all relevant documents recorded since the preparation or most recent update of the existing abstract.

Abutting Owners* - Owners of real estate whose lands touch or border highways or publicly owned lands.

Acceleration Clause* - A clause inserted in a note, mortgage or deed of trust which requires immediate payment of the entire debt if certain conditions are violated during the normal term of the loan.

Acceptance* - Consent to an offer or a contract.

Accessibility* - Ease of access or approach to a property.

Accretion* - The increase or acquisition of land by gradual action of natural forces such as water.

Acknowledgement - A declaration by a person who has signed a document that such signature is a voluntary act, made before a duly authorized person.

Acquisition* - The process of acquiring or purchasing a piece of property.

Acre - A two-dimensional measure of land equaling 160 sq. rods, 10 square chains, 4840 sq. yards or 43560 sq. feet.

Addendum - Something added as an attachment to a contract.

Adjacent - Nearby but not necessarily adjoining.

Adjoining - Contiguous, attaching, sharing a common border.

Administrator - A person appointed by a court to administer the estate of a deceased person who left no will.

Administrator's Deed - A deed conveying the property of one who died without a will (intestate).

Adult* - One who has reached legal age when the privileges of voting, contracting and other similar privileges are attained.

Adverse Possession* - The open and notorious possession and occupation of real property adversely to the rights and interests of the owners of record.

Affiant* - One who makes a sworn statement, such as an affidavit.

Affidavit - A written statement, sworn to or affirmed before an officer who is authorized to administer an oath or affirmation.

Agent* - A relation between two parties where one, called the agent, is given authority by the other, called the principal, to act for or represent the principal.

Agreement of Sale - A written agreement between seller and purchaser in which the purchaser agrees to buy certain real estate and the seller agrees to sell upon terms of the agreement. Also called offer and acceptance, contract of sale, earnest money contract.

Alien* - A person living in one country who is a citizen of another.

Allotment* - A plot of land which ahs been divided into small sections with or without improvements.

Amortization* - The extinguishment of a debt by regular partial payments.

Amortization Table* - A printed schedule of the monthly payments required to amortize a loan for specific interest rates and time periods.

Ancillary* - A subordinate document or instrument normally attached to a prior document in a subservient position, designed to aid the principal one.

Antecedent* - That which has gone before in the history of a person or thing; have proceeded the current happenings.

Appraisal* - A formal opinion or estimate of value by one who is qualified to evaluate factors of value.

Appreciation* - The added value of property resulting from various market influences, whether of a temporary or permanent nature.

Approved Attorney* - An attorney whose examinations of title are acceptable to a title insurance underwriter as a basis for issuing its title insurance policies.

Appurtenance - Something that is outside the property itself but is considered a part of the property and adds to its greater enjoyment, such as the right to cross another's land (i.e. easement or right-of-way).

Articles of Incorporation* - The formal statement made by those forming a corporation as to the nature of their corporate activities and basic business relationships as filed with the Secretary of State.

Assessment* - An official valuation of real property for the purpose of taxation.

Assets* - Those things owned by an individual or company which constitutes its tangible or intangible value.

Assign* - To transfer or set over to another, as to assign a mortgage.

Assignee(s)* - Those to whom property or rights are transferred.

Assume* - To accept the obligations of another party.

Assumption of Mortgage* - The process of assuming personal liability for the payment of existing loans for which property is the security.

Attachment* - The legal seizure of the defendant's property as security for any judgment awarded by court to permit plaintiff to recover in the action.

Attest - To witness by observation and signature.

Attorney-In-Fact - One who is authorized to act for another under a power of attorney, which may be general of limited in scope.

Attorney's Opinion of Title - A written statement by an attorney, after examination of Public Records and/or abstracts of title, that in his or her judgment the title to a particular property is good.

Authentication* - The certification of a document by the signature of an officer whose seal is usually affixed to validate the procedure.

Balloon Payment* - An amount due when a note or mortgage becomes due which is in excess of normal installment payments.

Base and Meridian* - The survey lines established by the US survey teams to divide the country into townships (base lines run east and west; meridian lines run north and south).

Bequeath - To specify by will the recipient of personal property.

Bilateral Contract* - Any contract in which there is a mutual exchange of promises by two or more parties.

Bill of Sale* - The legal document used to transfer title to personal property.

Binder* - Title commitment; deposit in escrow or earnest money deposit to bind a purchase contract as evidence of good faith that the buyer will go through with the deal.

Blanket Mortgage* - A mortgage instrument which names as security two or more parcels of land.

Bona Fide* - In good faith, without fraud, qualified arrangements.

Bond* - To encumber as with a mortgage; a certificate issued as security for the repayment of a loan out of future income or some designated fund.

Breach* - To break a law or a contract by failure or refusal to perform some act specifically required in the agreement.

Broker* - One who is licensed to act as agent for another in negotiating sales or purchases in return for a commission.

Building Code* - The code or restrictions established by a government body, such as a city, county or state for regulating the construction of buildings of all types.

Bundle of Rights* - Rights in real property associated with ownership, i.e. right of possession use or disposition.

Bylaws - A set of regulations by which an organization conducts its activities.

Capacity of Parties* - A term applied to the process of evaluating the qualifications of those who execute legal contracts.

Carrying Charges* - The various expenditures necessary to maintain a property from month to month, such as taxes, insurance, repairs.

Caveat Emptor* - A Latin expression used in law to designate the buyer's responsibility to investigate before purchasing.

Certificate of Title* - A certificate issued by a title examiner stating the conditions of title.

Certified Copy* - A true copy of an original document, certified by an officer or qualified person.

Chain of Title - A history of conveyances and encumbrances affecting a title from the time the original patent was granted, or as far back as records are available.

Claim* - A right to assert or the assertion or demand for payment for money due.

Clear Title (General Warranty Deed) - A marketable title, one free of clouds and disputed interest.

Closing* - The final settlement between a buyer and seller of real estate, during which the purchase price and deed are exchanged.

Closing Statement* - The statement, in the form of a balance sheet, used in a real estate closing showing the charges and credits for each party to the closing transaction, and the balance due from or to the respective parties.

Cloud on the Title - An outstanding claim of encumbrance that, if valid, would affect or impair the owner's title.

Coinsurance* - Two or more policies of title insurance issued by different underwriters, each covering a portion of the same risk, which taken together provide total coverage of the risk.

Collusion* - An agreement between two or more people to defraud another of his legal rights to obtain some unlawful object.

Color of Title - That which appears to be good title but is not.

Commercial Paper* - Notes or bills of exchange used in the normal course of business.

Commercial Property* - Any land suitable for use by business enterprise as zoned by city or county planning commissions or determined by normal usage.

Commingling* - The mixing of your own funds with that of the customer.

Commission* - The amount due a real estate or mortgage broker for services performed.

Common Elements* - Those elements pertaining to condominium and cooperative apartment owners, such as stairs, hallways and recreational facilities.

Co-mortgagor* - One who signs a mortgage or deed of trust as equally responsible for its repayments.

Competent Parties* - Those who are qualified or mentally competent to enter into a contract.

Condemnation - Taking private property for public use with compensation to the owner under eminent domain; used by governments to acquire land for streets, parks, schools, etc and by utilities to acquire necessary property; declaring a structure unfit for use.

Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions (CCRs) - Often found in a condominium or a subdivision, these are rules written into the deeds or bylaws that define how property may be used; prevent property owners from making changes to their individual properties that could result in an unattractive or inharmonious setting, which could adversely affect other owners.

Consent* - Voluntary agreement.

Consideration - Anything of value given to induce entering into a contract, it may be money, personal services, a product, etc.

Construction Loan* - A loan which is funded in stages as a house or building is being built in accordance with a pre-determined schedule of advances.

Constructive Notice* - A notice given by public or recorded documents.

Contiguous - Actually toughing, contiguous properties have a common boundary.

Contract for Deed - Aame as Land Contract.

Contract - An agreement between competent parties to do or not do certain things for a consideration.

Conventional Loans* - Generally applied to a mortgage loan which is neither insured by the FHA nor guaranteed by the VA.

Conveyance* - Transfer of title to property from one party to another or the instrument by which the transfer is effected.

Co-signer* - One who accepts equal obligation for the performance of contract, note or other act by placing his or her name on the documents involved.

Covenant - Promise written into deeds and other instruments agreeing to performance or nonperformance of certain acts or requiring or preventing certain uses of the property.

Covenant Running with the Land - A covenant restricting or limiting property rights to land, or a deed restriction, in which it is specified that ownership of the land cannot be transferred unless the new owner agrees to continue to abide by the covenant.

Credit Report* - A report generally prepared by a professional credit report agency for a fixed fee which reports the subject's family status, address, place of business, trade references, how he pays his bills, current status of outstanding debts and any items recorded against him.

Cut-off Date* - Date up to which loan collections are included in remittance to investors.

Declaration of Condominium* - The instrument or instruments by which a condominium is created and such instrument as amended.

Declaration of Restrictions* - The document recorded by a subdivider or builder to establish deed restrictions concerning the use of land and improvements in the subdivision covered by them.

Dedication* - In real estate, the term applied to the required or voluntary transfer of interest in real estate or improvements to city, county or state agencies such as the dedication of streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters to the city in which the subdivision is located.

Deed* - Written document by which ownership of land is transferred from one person to another.

Default* - Failure to pay an obligation when due or non-performance of a duty.

Defect in Title - Any recorded instrument that would prevent a Grantor from giving a clear title.

Delivery* - The act by a grantor of physically transferring his executed deed to the grantee or escrowee with the intent and purpose of conveying ownership of the property to the grantee.

Deposit* - An item of value or amount given in good faith to provide evidence of ability and willingness to complete the purchase or lease of real estate.

Description by Metes and Bounds* - A method of describing the boundaries of a parcel of land using distances and angles or actual boundaries, such as a road or creek with reference to a known point of beginning.

Description by Monuments* - A delineation of the boundaries of a piece of land using prominent physical features of the land such as trees and roads as reference points.

Devise - A gift of real estate by will or last testament.

Dispossess* - To take legal action to remove an occupant from the premises of real property.

Documentary Stamp* - A revenue stamp attached to deeds, wills, etc. for payment of tax to the federal government due to such transactions.

Dower - Under common law, the legal right of a wife or child to part of a deceased husband's or father's property.

Draw* - A partial advance of construction loan funds to which the borrower is entitled when construction reaches the specified state.

Due Diligence - Making a reasonable effort to perform under a contract; making a reasonable effort to provide accurate, complete information; a study that often precedes the purchase of property, which considers the physical, financial, legal and social characteristics of the property and expected investment performance, the underwriting of a loan or investment.

Earnest* - Something given as a part of the purchase price to bind a bargain, such as "earnest money."

Easement* - The right to make a specific use of land belonging to another person, such as the rights owned by a utility company to run power lines over another's property.

Egress - Access from a land parcel to a public road or other means of exit.

Eminent Domain - The right of the government or a public utility to acquire property for necessary public use by condemnation, the owner must be fairly compensated.

Encroachment - A building, part of a building, or an obstruction that physically intrudes upon, overlaps or trespasses upon the property of another.

Encumbrance - Any right to or interest in land that affects its value; includes outstanding mortgage loans, unpaid taxes, easements, deed restrictions.

Environmental Assessment (EA) - A study of land to determine any unique environmental attributes, considering everything from endangered species to existing hazardous waste to historical significance; depending on the findings of an EA, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may or may not be needed.

Environmental Audit - A study of the property and its area to determine whether there are any hazards. Phase 1 - to identify the presence of hazards (e.g. asbestos, radon, PCBs, leaking underground storage tanks).  Phase 2 - to estimate the cost of remediation or cleanup.  Phase 3 - to remediate the environmental contamination.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) - An analysis of the expected effects of a development or action on the surrounding natural and fabricated environment.

Environmental Protection Agency - An agency of the US government established to enforce federal pollution abatement laws and to implement various pollution prevention programs.

Equitable Title - The interest held by one who has agreed to purchase but has not yet closed the transaction.

Equity* - The interest one has in real property as an owner about all existing indebtedness.

Escheat - The reversion of property to the state in the event that the owner dies without leaving a will and has no legal heirs.

Escrow* - A transaction in which a third party as depository for seller and buyer or borrower and lender acts in carrying out the instructions of both in handling and disbursing papers and funds.

Estate - The degree, nature and extent of interest that a person has in real property.

Estate at Will - The occupation of real estate by a tenant for an indefinite period, terminable by one or both parties at will.

Estate for Life - An interest in property that terminates up on the death of a specified person.

Estate for Years - An interest in land allowing possession for a specified and limited time.

Estoppel* - A statement made by a mortgager certifying the terms of the mortgage and the unpaid balance due which estops or prevents him from later claiming differently.

Evidence of Title - Documents, such as deeds, that demonstrate ownership.

Examination of Title - Research of the title to a piece of real estate, less thorough than a title search, usually concentrates on recent records.

Exception* - In the title industry, a provision in a title insurance commitment or policy which excludes liability regarding each specific exception.

Exchange Agreement* - A contract which covers the understanding of two or more owners who agree to transfer their properties to each other with or without additional consideration.

Execute* - To sign documents agreeing to carry out all understandings and commitments contained in such instruments.

Executor - A person named in a will to carry out its provisions for the disposition of the estate.

Executrix - A woman who performs the duties of an executor.

Extended Coverage Policy* - Title insurance policy which covers specific risks not contained in a standard policy and for which a special policy is written with additional premium according to the risk involved.

Family Limited Partnership - A limited partnership whose interests are owned by members of the same family.  By this arrangement, gift and estate taxes may be reduced, though owners will not enjoy the freedom of ownership or transferability of other ownership vehicles.

Federal Housing Administration (FDA)* - An agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development which insures loans on various housing programs established by Congress.

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA, Fanny Mae)* - Formerly a government agency, now a private institution which buys and sells mortgages in a secondary mortgage market.

Federal Tax Lien - A debt attached against property for unpaid federal taxes, most often used by the internal revenue service to attach property for payment of owner's unpaid income taxes.

Fee* - An estate held in land, the land itself so held.

Fee Simple, Fee Absolute, Fee Simple Absolute - Absolute ownership of real property, owner is entitled to the entire property with unconditional power of disposition during the owner's life, and upon his death the property descends to the owner's designated heirs.

Fee Simple Defeasible - A type of property ownership in which the grant of title or duration of ownership is dependent on a specified condition.

FHA Firm Commitment* - The commitment by FHA to insure a loan on a specific property to a specific borrower in a specific amount for a specified time subject to conditions on the commitment.

FHA Mortgage* - A mortgage loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Fiduciary - One who acts in a legal role, in the best interests of others.

Filing* - In the title business, synonymous to recording a real estate instrument among the public records.

Floodplain - A level land area subject to periodic flooding from a contiguous body of water. Floodplains are delineated by the expected frequency of flooding.

Force Majeure - An unavoidable cause of delay or of failure to perform a contract obligation in time.

Foreclosure* - The procedure for collection of a real estate mortgage or lien.

Forgery* - Fraudulent signing of another name to a deed or other instrument.

Free and Clear Title - Title to a property without encumbrances.   Generally used to refer to a property free of mortgage debt.

Freehold - An interest in real estate without a predetermined time span

Future Interest - A property right or estate that may not be enjoyed until some time in the future.

General Lien - A lien that includes all of the property owned by the debtor, rather than a specific property.

General Partner - In a partnership, a partner whose liability is not limited.  All partners in an ordinary partnership are general partners.

General Warranty Deed - A deed in which the grantor agrees to protect the grantee against any other claim to title of the property and provides other promises.

Gift Deed - A deed for which consideration is love and affection and no material consideration is involved.

Good and Marketable Title - Title to a piece of real estate that can be shown, usually by title search or abstract of title to be vested in the owner of record and free of claims or liens that would impair its marketability.

Good Will* - The general reputation and business enjoyed by a company based on its name and past services.

Grade - Ground level at the foundation; to prepare a smooth surface on a site.

Grandfather Clause - When a law is changed or a new law is passed, those whose specific activity was legal under the previous law are often allowed to continue, by virtue of this provision.

Grant - A technical term used in deeds of conveyance of property to indicate a transfer.

Grantee* - One who acquires title to property by deed.

Grantor* - One who conveys title to property by deed.

Grantor/Grantee Index - A reference kept with public records that cross-indexes grantors and grantees with one another and the properties they relate to.

Guardian - One appointed by a court to administer the personal affairs or property of an individual who is not capable of such duties.

Habendum Clause - The to have and to hold clause that defines or limits the quantity of the estate granted in the deed.

Heirs and Assigns - A term often found in deeds and wills to grant a fee simple estate.

Hold Harmless Clause - In a contract, a clause whereby one party agrees to protect another party from claims.

Homeowners Policy* - An insurance policy for real property which offers coverage for many things not insured under a standard fire policy.

Homestead* - Property defined by law and designated by the head of the family as the primary residence of a family.

Incompetent* - One who is unable to manage his own property and affairs due to insanity, senility or mental disability.

Indemnify - To protect another person against loss or damage.

Inchoate - Unfinished, begun but not completed; in real estate, this can apply to dower or courtesy rights prior to the death of a spouse.

Incorporate - To form a corporation under state regulations provided by the Secretary of State; to provide a geographic area the legal status of a political subdivision of the state.

Indenture* - A deed or contract entered into by two or more persons, each of whom obligates himself to perform certain things set forth in the indenture.

Ingress/ Egress - Right to enter and exit through land owned by another.

Institutional Lender* - A recognized mortgage company or back which is authorized to make real estate loans as well as purchase government insured loans.

Instrument - A written legal document, created to establish the rights and liabilities of the parties to it.

Insured Mortgage* - A mortgage which has been insured by FHA or guaranteed by VA.

Insurer* - The term applied to the title insurance company or underwriter.

Intangible Tax* - A tax levied on property which has no value in and of itself but which represents something of value, for example a mortgage note.

Interests* - Any right or rights of persons in real estate.

International Right of Way Association (IRWA) - An individual membership association (no corporate membership) that offers courses covering various phases of right-of-way work.

Inter Vivos - During one's life.

Inter Vivos Trust - Trust set up during one's life.

Involuntary Alienation - Loss of property for nonpayment of debts such as taxes or mortgage foreclosure.

Involuntary Conversation - Condemnation or sudden destruction by nature.

Joinder* - Acting jointly with one or more persons joining.

Joint Tenancy - Ownership of realty by two or more persons, each of whom has an undivided interest with the right of survivorship, typically used by related persons.

Judgment - A decree of a court stating that one individual is indebted to another and fixing the amount of the indebtedness.

Judgment Lien - The claim upon the property of a debtor resulting from a judgment.

Judicial Foreclosure - Having a defaulted debtor's property sold where the court ratifies the price paid.

Junior Lien*  Any lien which is subordinate to another lien that has a prior claim on the security.

Land Contract - A real estate installment selling arrangement whereby the buyer may use, occupy and enjoy land but no deed is given by the seller (therefore, no title passes) until all or a specified part of the sale price has been paid.

Late Charge* - A charge collected from a borrower who fails to make payments when due.

Latent* - That which is concealed, hidden.

Lease* - An agreement for which real estate is rented for a fixed period of time.

Leasehold - The interest or estate on which a lessee (tenant) of real estate has a lease.

Lease with Option to Purchase - A lease that gives the lessee (tenant) the right to purchase the property at an agree-upon price under certain conditions.

Legal Description - Legally acceptable identification of real estate by one of the following: the government rectangular survey; metes and bounds; recorded plat (lot and block number).

Legal Title - A collection of rights of ownership that are defined or recognized by law or that could be successfully defended in a court of law.

Legatee - One who receives property by will.

Levy* - To seize or attach property for payment of a debt.

License - Permission; a right granted by a state to an individual to operate as a real estate broker or salesperson.

Lien - A charge against property making it security for the payment of a debt, judgment, mortgage or taxes.

Life Estate - A freehold interest (in real property) that expires upon the death of the owner or some other specified person.

Life Tenant - One who is allowed to use property for life or the lifetime of another designated person.

Limited Liability - The restriction of one's potential losses to the amount invested; the absence of personal liability.

Limited Partnership - One in which there is at least one partner who is passive and limits liability to the amount invested and at least one partner whose liability extends beyond monetary investment.

Liquid Assets* - Any property or valuable securities which can readily be converted to cash.

Liquidate* - To sell property at its cash value to generate funds.

Liquidated Damages* - A specific sum of money to be paid under a contract in the event of a breach of the contract's terms.

Lis Pendens - "suit pending;" recorded notice of the filing of a suit, the outcome of which may affect title to a certain land.

Littoral* - Property which borders a large body of water, such as a lake, ocean or sea.

Loan-to-Value Ratio* - The ratio between the amount of a loan and the appraised value of the collateral.

Marketability* - The status of title when viewed in light of whether or not it is in such condition as to attract a purchaser.

Marketable Title - A title so free from defect that a court will enforce the title's acceptance by a purchaser.

Market Value* - The price a property should bring from a fully informed buyer when he is under no pressure to buy and the seller is under no pressure to sell.

Maturity* - The date on which the mortgage indebtedness should be extinguished if paid in accordance with periodic payment provided for in the mortgage.

Mechanic Lien Affidavit* - An affidavit under oath by the owner/contractor that there has been no labor or materials used on that property within the past ___ days or that all laborers and subcontractors, suppliers, etc have been paid in full.

Mechanics Lien* - A lien given by law upon a building or other improvement upon land, and upon the land itself, as security for the payment for labor done and materials furnished for improvement.

Meridian Line* - The US government survey lines running from north to south used to establish township boundaries.

Metes and Bounds - A land description method that details all the boundary lines of land, together with their terminal points and angles.

Mineral Lease - An agreement that provides the lessee the right to excavate and sell minerals on the property of the lessor or to remove and sell petroleum and natural gas from the pool underlying the property of the lessor; in return, the lessor receives a royalty payment based on the value of the minerals removed.

Minor*  - Any child who has not attained legal age.

Misrepresentation* - Falsely representing or concealing important truths about the transaction from the participants.

Modification Agreement* - A written change to a document which modifies the original terms by mutual agreement of all parties.

Monument* - An object placed at a fixed point by surveyors to establish their survey lines.

Mortgage* - A written document by which land is put up.

Mortgage Banker* - One who deals in mortgages, usually with his own capital or line of credit, selling such loans to other investors at more favorable prices and retaining the servicing responsibility for an additional fee.

Mortgage Broker* - One who negotiates the placing of loans but does not use his own capital.

Mortgage Certificate* - An instrument used to signify partial ownership of a mortgage when there are many persons with a beneficial right to the mortgage, each with an undivided interest.

Mortgage Insurance* - Life insurance written to cover the amount of a mortgage on real property and paid in full in the event the mortgager dies before the balance on the loan has been fully retired.

Mortgage Term* - The number of months or years over which a mortgage loan is to be repaid.

Mortgagee* - One who receives a mortgage from another; the lender under the mortgage.

Mortgagor* - The debtor or person executing a mortgage; the borrower.

Notary Republic* - A person authorized by law to take acknowledgements and oaths from individuals.

Notice of Completion* - Notice filed when all work has been completed on a building according to contract specifications.

Novation - A three-party agreement whereby one party is released from a contract and another party is substituted.

Null and Void - That which cannot be legally enforced, as with a contract provision that is not in conformance with the law.

Official Records* - For title purposes, the set of index books as defined by the legislature which the Clerk must maintain; one set of books encompassing deed books, mortgage books, judgment books.

Oil and Gas Lease - An agreement that gives the right to explore for oil, gas and sometimes other mineral and to extract them from the ground.

Opinion of Title - A certificate, generally from an attorney, as to the validity of title to property being sold.

Owner of Record - The person(s) who, according to the public records, is/are the owner(s) of a particular property.

Ownership Form - Methods of owning real estate, which affect income tax, estate tax, continuity, liability, survivorship, transferability, disposition at death and at bankruptcy.

Owners Policy* - The title insurance policy issued to the owner(s) of real property, insuring against loss according to the terms of the policy.

Partial Release Clause* - A clause in a land purchase contract and subsequent mortgage instruments which provides for the release of a parcel of land from the blanket mortgage when a specified, pro-rata sum has been paid to the holder of the mortgage or land owner.

Partition - The division of real property between those who own it with undivided interest.

Partnership - An agreement between two or more entities to go into business or invest; either partner may bind the other, within the scope of the partnership; each partner is liable for all the partnership's debts; normally pays no taxes, but merely files an information return; the individual partners pay personal income tax on their share of income.

Party Wall* - A dividing wall which separates two or more participants and to which each abutting owner has equal rights of use.

Patent* - An original conveyance of real estate from the Federal government to a private owner.

Payee* - The one receiving the sum due on a note.

Permit - A document, issued by a government regulatory authority, that allows the bearer to take some specific action.

Per Stirpes - A legal method of distributing an estate to include the descendants of a deceased legatee, whose share is apportioned among linear descendants.

Plat - A plan or map of a specific land area.

Plat Book - A public record containing maps of land, showing the division of the land into streets, blocks and lots and indicating the measurements of the individual parcels.

Plot Plan - A diagram showing the proposed or existing use of a specific parcel of land.

Points* - A term used to describe loan discounts collected by mortgage lenders as a means of increasing their yield on real estate loans.

Police Power* - The power vested in a State government to enact and enforce laws that are for the public welfare.

Power of Attorney (P.O.A) - An instrument authorizing a person to act as the agent of the person granting it.

Prepayment Penalty* - The penalty imposed on mortgagors when they elect to pay the balance of the loan before it is due.

Prescription* - Obtaining an easement on the property of another by adverse use for a number of years.

Principal* - Sum of money owed as a debt; person who empowers another to act as his agent or representative; person primarily responsible for an obligation.

Probate Court* - A court which has authority over the property of deceased persons and others incapable of managing their properties.

Probate or Prove - To establish the validity of the will of a deceased person.

Promissory Note* - A written promise to pay a certain sum of money at a definite date in the future.

Property* - The right and interest a person has in lands and chattels to the exclusion of others.

Proration* - To divide proportionately among the parties involved based on a fixed date of computations.

Public Lands - Acreage held by the government for conservation purposes, generally undeveloped with limited activities such as grazing, wildlife management, recreation, timbering, mineral development, water development and hunting.

Public Records* - The records, consisting of instruments transcribed on the record books of government offices, in particular the Circuit Court or Recorder's office.

Pur Autre Vie - For the life of another; an estate one person grants to another, only for the duration of the life of a third person.

Purchase Money Mortgage* - Mortgage given by a buyer to the seller of a particular property as part of the purchase price.

Purchase Price* - The entire legal consideration paid or payable upon or on account of the sale of property.

Quiet Title - Court action to settle a title dispute.

Quiet Title Suit or Action - A suit in court to remove a defect, cloud on the title or suspicion regarding legal rights of an owner to a certain parcel of real property.

Quit Claim Deed - A deed that conveys only the grantor's rights or interest in real estate, without stating the nature of the rights and with no warranties of ownership; often used to remove a possible cloud on the title.

Range* - A strip of land running North and South, 6 miles wide, as established by US government survey.

Rate* - Usually refers to the cost per dollar unit of title insurance

Real Estate* - Land and generally whatever is erected or growing on or affixed to the land.

Recission of Contract* - The nullifying of a contract by mutual consent or court decision.

Record* - To enter a document into the official public records for the purpose of giving notice of the contents of the document.

Record Title* - Title based on the public records, differing from titles based on unrecorded documents.

Refinancing* - The repayment of an existing debt from the proceeds of new borrowing.

Re-Insurance* - One insurance company insuring another insurer.

Release of a Mortgage or Lien* - An instrument releasing and canceling a mortgage, lien or judgment which has been paid or satisfied.

Remainder - An estate that takes effect after the termination of a prior estate, such as a life estate.

Remainderman - The person who is to receive possession of the property after the death of a life tenant.

Reservation* - The temporary withholding of a property from the market to one buyer until he can confirm his decision.

Restriction - A limitation placed upon the use of property, contained in the deed or other written instrument in the chain of title or in local ordinances pertaining to land use.

Restrictive Covenant - A covenant or deed restriction that limits the property rights of the owner.

Revenue Stamps* - The government documentary stamps which are affixed to documents to verify payment of tax.

Right of Survivorship* - The right contained in a joint tenancy deed for the surviving tenants to acquire the interest of a deceased tenant.

Right-of-Way - The right to use a particular path for access or passage, a type of easement; the areas of subdivisions dedicated to government for use for streets, roads and other public access to lots.

Risk* - The risk a title company assumes when it insures a piece of real estate.

Run with the Land - An expression indicating a right or restriction that affects all current and future owners of a property.

Satisfaction of Mortgage* - An instrument recorded to verify that the mortgagor has satisfied his debt.

Satisfied* - Paid in full.

Secondary Mortgage Market* - The outlet for primary mortgages to those who buy them for investment after the original lender has completed his purchase of the loans.

Section* - Pertaining to land - a standard measurement containing 640 acres and being one square mile.

Separate Property - Property acquired by either spouse prior to marriage or by gift or devise after marriage, as distinct from community property.

Set-back Line* - The building line established by local authorities who control where buildings may be placed on a given lot.

Severalty - The ownership of real property by an individual as an individual.

Site Plan - A document that describes how a parcel of land is to be improved; includes the outlines of all structures and site improvements, such as driveways, parking lots, landscaping and utility connections.

Special Assessment* - A special property tax levied on property owners to finance improvements such as paving or sewers which would benefit the property assessed.

Special Warranty Deed - A deed in which the grantor limits the title warranty given to the grantee to anyone claiming by, from, through or under him, the grantor.

Specific Performance* - A court order requiring a person to do what he has previously agreed to do.

Squatters Rights - The legal allowance to use the property of another in absence of an attempt by the owner to force eviction.

Statute of Frauds* - Law which requires certain types of contracts to be in writing.

Statue of Limitations* - A time limit on the enforcement of a right or under some circumstances, the collection of a debt.

Subcontractor* - One who accepts an assignment of work from another contractor, known as the general contractor.

Subdivision* - A large tract of land which is improved with roads, water and sewer systems and partitioned into lots suitable for residential or other use.

Surety Bond* - A bond guaranteeing performance of a specified act or payment of the amount required to complete that act.

Survey* - The procedure by which the corners and boundaries of a tract of land are located and described.

Subject To - Acquiring property with an existing mortgage, but not becoming personally liable for the debt.

Survivorship - The right of a joint tenant or tenants to maintain ownership rights following the death of another joint tenant.

Tangible Property - Real estate and other valuables which can be seen and touched.

Tax Foreclosure - The process of enforcing a lien against property for nonpayment of delinquent property taxes.

Tax Sale* - The sale of property by the State at auction to settle delinquent taxes.

Taxes* - A pecuniary charge imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.

Tenancy* - The estate or interest of a person in land.

Tenancy at Sufferance - Tenancy established when a person who had been a lawful tenant wrongfully remains in possession of property after expiration of a lease.

Tenancy at Will - A license to use or occupy lands and buildings at the will of the owner.

Tenancy by the Entirety - An estate that exists only between husband and wife with equal right of possession and enjoyment during their joint lives and with the right of survivorship i.e. when one dies, the property goes to the surviving tenant.

Tenants in Common - An ownership of realty by two or more persons, each of whom has an undivided interest, without the right of survivorship.

Tenancy in Severalty - Ownership of property by one person or one legal entity (corporate ownership).

Tender* - An unconditional offer of payment of a debt or an offer of performance.

Testate - Having made a valid will.

Testator - A person who makes a will.

Testatrix - A woman who makes a will.

Third Party* - Persons who are not principal parties to a contract or other instrument but who have some right, interest or duty such as a title company serving as escrowee.

Time is of the Essence Clause* - A clause which specifies that time is an essential ingredient in the contract concerned and that failure to meet time for performance will be considered a violation of the contract.

Title - Evidence that the owner of land is in lawful possession thereof; evidence of ownership.

Title Defect - An unresolved claim against the ownership of property which prevents presentation of a marketable title.

Title Insurance* - Indemnity against loss resulting from defects in or liens on a title.

Title Report - A document indicating the current state of the title, such as easements, covenants, liens and defects.

Title Search* - A search and examination of the public records for recorded instruments which affect the title to the parcel of land under search.

Torrens Certificate* - A document issued by the public registrar to indicate to whom the property in question currently belongs.

Township* - A unit of land six miles square which is established by government survey.



Living Trust n. sometimes called an "inter vivos" (Latin for "within one's life") trust, a trust created by a declaration of trust executed by the trustor or trustors (also called settlor or settlors) during his/her/their lifetime, as distinguished from a "testamentary trust" which is created by a will and only comes into force upon the death of the person who wrote the will. A living trust should not be confused with a "living will" which provides for medical care decisions when a person is terminally ill. While a living trust is a generic name for any trust which comes into existence during the lifetime of the person or persons creating the trust, most commonly it is a trust in which the trustor(s) or settlor(s) receive benefit(s) from the profits of the trust during their lifetimes, followed by a distribution upon the death of the last trustor (settlor) to die, or the trust continues on for the benefit of others (such as the next generation) with profits distributed to them. There are other types of living trusts including irrevocable trust, insurance trust, charitable remainder trust and some specialized trusts to manage some parts of the assets of a person or persons. (See: inter vivos, living will, trust, trustor, settlor, trustee, beneficiary, charitable remainder trust)

Testamentary Trust n. a trust created by the terms of a will. Example: "The residue of my estate shall form the corpus (body) of a trust, with the executor as trustee, for my children's health and education, which shall terminate when the last child attains the age of 25, when the remaining corpus and any accumulated profits shall be divided among my then living children." A testamentary trust differs from an "intervivos" or "living" trust which comes into being during the lifetime of the creator of the trust (called trustor, settlor or donor), usually from the time the Declaration of Trust is signed. (See: will, trust, living trust)


Revocable Trust

A trust whereby provisions can be altered or cancelled dependent on the grantor. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after death does property transfer to the beneficiaries.


This type of agreement provides for flexibility and income to the living grantor, as he/she is able to adjust the provisions of the trust and earn income, all the while knowing that the estate will be transferred upon death.

See also: Beneficiary, Estate, Irrevocable Trust

Irrevocable Trust

A trust that, once its setup, cannot be changed at all.


This is to prevent fraudulent activities.

See also: Exemption Trust, Trust, Unit Trust

Exemption Trust

A trust whose purpose is to drastically reduce or eliminate federal estate taxes for a married couple's estate. This type of estate plan sets up an irrevocable trust that will hold the assets of the first spouse to die.


The amount will not be taxed for federal estate tax purposes when the second spouse dies.

See also: Estate Tax, Irrevocable Trust, Trust, Unit Trust

Unit Trust - UT

An unincorporated mutual fund structure that allows funds to hold assets and pass through profits to the individual owners, rather than reinvest profits back into the fund.


In the U.K. the term "unit trust" is synonymous with "mutual fund" as it is used in North America.

See also: Irrevocable Trust, Mutual Fund, Trust, Unit Investment Trust

A Totten Trust is a form of trust created where one party (the settlor of the trust) places money in a bank account with instructions that upon the settlor's death, whatever is in that bank account will pass to a named beneficiary. For example, a Totten trust arises where the bank account is titled in the form "[depositor], in trust for [beneficiary]". It is not a legal trust, but arises out of equity, as a matter of fairness.

The name is derived from Matter of Totten, 179 N.Y. 112 (1904), the case decided by the Court of Appeals of New York which established the legality of this practice. Although this method of creating a trust did not meet the formal requirements of trust creation, or the testamentary formalities required to make a valid will, the Court noted that such an arrangement typically involved a small amount of money left by a person of modest means, who could not otherwise afford to establish a legal mechanism for passing the specified property. For this reason, the device is sometimes called a "poor man's will".

Most U.S. States now recognize the validity of Totten trusts. The Restatement 3d of Trusts Section 26 and the Restatement 3d of Property Section 7.1 comment i also recognize its validity. Such a device can be revoked at any time by the settlor, either by closing the account or by executing a will which disposes of the property in the account. The funds in the account can be reached by the creditors of the settlor during the settlor's life. If the intended beneficiary predeceases the settlor, then the gift will lapse, and will generally not be saved by an anti-lapse statute.

Totten Trust A Totten Trust is one that is created during the lifetime of the grantor by depositing money into an account at a financial institution in his or her name as the Trustee for another. This is a type of revocable Trust in which the gift is not completed until the grantor's death or an unequivocal act reflecting the gift during the grantor's lifetime. An individual or an entity can be named as the beneficiary. Upon death, Totten Trust assets avoid probate. A Totten Trust is used primarily with accounts and SECURITIES in financial institutions such as savings accounts, bank accounts, and certificates of deposit. A Totten trust cannot be used with real property. A Totten Trust provides a safer method to pass assets on to family than using joint ownership. To create a Totten Trust, the title on the account should include identifying language, such as "In Trust For", "Payable on Death To", "As Trustee For", or the identifying initials for each, "ITF", "POD", "ATF". If this language is not included, the beneficiary may not be identifiable. A Totten Trust has been called a "poor man's" trust because a written trust document is typically not involved and it often costs the trustmaker nothing to establish.


A Supplemental Needs Trusts, also called a special needs trust is a trust which is designed to provide benefits to, and protect the assets of, physically disabled or mentally disabled persons and still allow such persons to be qualified for and receive governmental health care benefits, especially long-term nursing care benefits, under the Medicaid welfare program. Supplemental or Special Needs Trusts are frequently used to receive an inheritance or personal injury litigation proceeds on behalf of a disabled person in order to allow the person to qualify for Medicaid benefits.

Background of Medicaid Law

Medicaid is the Federal program administered by the states which provides health care for the poor. See 42 U.S.C. § 1396 et seq. Federal law establishes certain mandatory requirements which each state must adopt in its local Medicaid program, and the states are also given options to elect certain other components in the health care plan which they may decide to provide. Accordingly, Medicaid does vary from state to state in certain aspects, but there are also mandatory Federal law provisions.

One significant governmental benefit which is available only through Medicaid is long-term nursing care which includes care for the physically disabled and the mentally disabled. Long-term nursing care can be extremely expensive. Medicaid is a welfare program. To qualify for Medicaid and its long-term nursing care benefits, the applicant must be “poor” and there is a limit to the countable assets which he or she can own. To qualify for Medicaid, the applicant must meet the asset guidelines for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). SSI allows a single applicant to own no more than $2,000 in countable assets and a married applicant to own no more than $3,000 in countable assets. Certain assets are specifically exempted and are not countable.

Trusts as Medicaid Countable Assets

A trust is a legal arrangement in which legal title to assets is held by a trustee under certain defined restrictions of a governing instrument (usually a will or a written trust agreement) for the benefit of another party who is known as the beneficiary. Trusts can be used as a vehicle to make assets available to a beneficiary but still significantly restrict them. Recognizing the gray area which trusts can provide concerning the ownership of assets, Federal Medicaid law places significant restrictions on the types of trusts which can be used to preserve assets of a beneficiary and still qualify the beneficiary for governmental benefits.

Prior to the enactment of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (O.B.R.A), P.L. 103-66, it was possible to create a self-settled, discretionary trust for the benefit of the settlor and still allow the settlor to qualify for Medicaid’s long-term nursing care benefits. These trusts were called “special needs trusts” or “supplemental needs trusts” because restrictive language in the trust agreement allowed the trustee to pay only for the support needs of the settlor-beneficiary which the government did not pay. The trust was not for the unrestricted, general support of the beneficiary which is typical in normal estate plans. Special needs trusts were perceived by Congress to be abusive and were effectively abolished by O.B.R.A.

In general, with limited exceptions, regardless of the purposes, provisions, or discretion contained in the trust, a self-settled trust which is created after August 11, 1993 will be treated as an available asset which can disqualify the settlor-beneficiary from Medicaid. 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(2)(C). This means that generally a person cannot create his or her own trust, transfer his or her own assets into the trust, and still be qualified for Medicaid.

Medicaid Exempt Trusts

Since the effective date of O.B.R.A., only a limited number of trusts can now be used and still preserve an applicant’s Medicaid eligibility. One major distinction should be made when analyzing Medicaid trusts. Trusts created by the disabled beneficiary (or a third-party with legal authority over the disabled beneficiary) with the disabled person’s own assets for the disabled person’s own benefit are classified as first-party, self-settled trusts. These types of trusts must be distinguished from trusts created by a third-party for the benefit of a disabled individual with the third-party’s own assets (such as a grandparent creating a trust for a grandchild). Legal restrictions generally exist for first-party, self settled trusts which do not exist for third-party trusts.

First-Party, Self-Settled Trusts

Most self-settled trusts holding the disabled beneficiary’s own assets created after August 11, 1993 are countable resources for Medicaid. The Medicaid statute, however, provides for three specific types of trusts which can be funded with the applicant’s own assets and which will not disqualify the applicant from Medicaid. These trusts are called “D-4A Trusts” after the subsection of the law which authorizes them. They are also called “Federalized Special Needs Trusts” because the Federal Medicaid statute makes them available in every state.

Because of the requirement that the State be reimbursed for medical assistance, D-4A Special Needs Trusts may have limited utility when the goal is to pass assets of the disabled individual to family members. The main benefit of the D-4A Trusts is to provide a quality of life for the Medicaid beneficiary. Assets can be held in the trust and used to pay for the beneficiary’s special and supplemental needs which the government does not provide, while Medicaid pays the significant medical bills. If the medical assistance provided during life does not turn out to be costly, then upon the death of the beneficiary, there is a chance that assets may be preserved in the trust and pass to loved ones.

Disabled Individual’s Special Needs Trust

Under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(A), a Disabled Individual’s Trust will not be counted as a Medicaid asset even when it is funded with the applicant’s own assets. The requirements for the trust are that the individual must be under age 65 at the time the trust is created (and funded), and disabled under the Social Security definition. Further, the trust must be for the "sole benefit" of the disabled individual. The trust must be created by a parent, grandparent, guardian, or court. Upon the death of the individual, the State Medicaid agency must be reimbursed for the costs of the medical assistance which was provided by Medicaid during the disabled individual's lifetime. This is often called the “payback” provision.

It is important to note that the Disabled Individual’s Trust must be created by a parent, grandparent, guardian, or court. The statute does not allow the disabled individual to create his or her own trust, even if he or she is otherwise legally competent. Action by a third party is required in creating the trust. In this regard, these types of special needs trusts are often established by a court on behalf of a disabled person as a part of or ancillary to a serious personal injury lawsuit.

"Miller" Trust

A "Miller" Trust can be used to qualify a Medicaid applicant with income in excess of the eligibility limit (not imposed in all states) for long-term care assistance from Medicaid. Such a trust is not really a "special needs" trust at all, and is not funded with the beneficiary's assets. The Miller trust can be named as recipient of the individual's income, from a pension plan, Social Security, or other source. The Miller trust takes its name from the Colorado case of Miller v. Ibarra, 746 F. Supp. 19 (D. Colo. 1990), and is specifically sanctioned by 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(B). As with a self-settled special needs trust (referred to above as a "Disabled Individual’s Trust"), upon the death of the beneficiary, the State Medicaid agency must be paid back for its medical assistance from any remaining assets in the Miller trust. An older name for the Miller trust, still occasionally used, is “Utah Gap" trusts, reportedly coined by a Colorado advocate describing the gap between the income cap for eligibility and the actual cost of nursing home care as similar to the yawning chasm between mesas dotting the Southern Utah landscape. The Miller trust is only significant in those states which impose an income cap on Medicaid long-term care eligibility; ironically, Utah is not one of those states. Income caps are in place in about half of the states.

Nonprofit Pooled Income Special Needs Trust

A Nonprofit Pooled Income Special Needs Trust is authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(C). Again, the individual must be disabled under the Social Security definition. Unlike the other exempt trusts which can be administered by a private trustee who is an individual (such as a family member), the Pooled Income Trust is run by a nonprofit association, and a separate account is maintained for each individual beneficiary. All accounts are pooled for investment and management purposes. The trust (or more accurately, an account in the pooled trust) may be created by a parent, grandparent, guardian, or court, and it can also be created by the disabled individual himself. Upon the death of the disabled individual, the balance is either retained in the trust for the nonprofit association or paid back to the State Medicaid agency for its medical assistance.

In some states, a disabled individual over age 65 is entitled to transfer assets to a pooled trust and then be immediately eligible for Medicaid. In other states, the transfer must be made before the disabled individual attains the age of 66.

Third-Party Trusts

Medicaid law governing trusts is designed to prevent disabled individuals qualifying for benefits while still retaining full control over their assets. A third-party, however, is still free to plan with his own assets and either give them outright to a disabled individual or tie them up and restrict them in trust as he sees fit. Accordingly, trusts which are created by a third party with the third party’s own assets to benefit a beneficiary who is on Medicaid have their own separate rules and treatment.

Generally, a properly drafted third-party, discretionary trust is not countable as an asset available to the beneficiary receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Medicaid benefits. Such a trust must be created by a party other than the SSI/Medicaid beneficiary, must not receive any assets belonging to the beneficiary, and must be restricted (not accessible or available) to the beneficiary. The operative principle is whether the trust assets or income are available to the beneficiary. If appropriate trust language is used (and the appropriate language varies from state to state), Medicaid will not treat the resources in the trust as a countable resource. Typically, a third-party trust provides that the trustee is given unfettered discretion to distribute (or not to distribute) principal or income for the benefit of the disabled beneficiary. Often, the trustee is directed only to make distributions for the “supplemental” or “special” needs of the beneficiary or as long as the distributions do not disqualify the beneficiary from governmental benefits. Frequently the trustee will be specifically prohibited from making distributions which provide the beneficiary with food or shelter (the two disqualifying categories under SSI and Medicaid regulations). There is no requirement that the trustee be so restricted, however; it may be preferable in most cases to permit the trustee to make the decision to make distributions which reduce or even eliminate public benefits in cases where the availability of trust resources is more important than continued eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.

A third-party special needs trust should not be drafted as a general support trust or mandate distribution of current income to the beneficiary. In such a case, the trust can be deemed to be “available” and can disqualify the beneficiary from Medicaid. The Medicaid beneficiary should not be given any power to revoke the trust or direct the trustee to make distributions to the beneficiary. The trust can be revocable by the third-party settlor. This means that a parent can fund a trust for a disabled child with the parent’s assets and give it a test run, revoking it later and re-acquiring the assets if the parent decides that it is not serving its purpose. Finally, the third-party trust does not need to include a D-4 “payback” provision reimbursing the State for the medical assistance of the beneficiary upon the beneficiary’s death.


Trust Deed - A conveyance of real estate to a third party to be held for the benefit of another.

Trustee - One who holds property in trust for another to secure performance of an obligation; the neutral party in a trust deed transaction.

Trustee's Sale - A foreclosure sale conducted by a trustee under the stipulations of a deed of trust.

Underwriter* - A title insurance company, one who assumes the risk for insurance coverage provided.

Undivided Interest - An ownership right to use and possession of a property that is shared among co-owners with no one co-owner having exclusive rights to any portion of the property.

Unilateral Contract* - A contract which imposes an obligation on only one party to the contract.

Unimproved Land* - Land upon which no buildings have been constructed.

Unrecorded Deed - An instrument that transfers title from one party to another party without providing public notice of change in ownership.

Unsecured* - Not protected by assets or security instruments.

Utility Easement - Use of another's property for the purpose of laying gas, electric, water and sewer lines.

Valid* - Legally enforceable, binding.

Vest* - To bestow upon or grant, as title to property.

VA Mortgage* - A mortgage loan which is guaranteed by the Veterans Administration.

Void* - Binding on no one, something which is of no effect.

Waiver* - Act of waiving or intentionally relinquishing or abandoning some known right, claim or privilege.

Warehousing Loans* - Interim loan between construction completion and sale of the house.

Warranty - A promise contained in a contract.

Warranty Deed - One that contains a covenant that the grantor will protect the grantee against any and all claims.

Wetlands - Land, such as a marsh or swamp, normally saturated with water.

Wrap-Around Mortgage* - Involves a property on which there is an existing mortgage and the new mortgage wraps around that existing mortgage.

Zoning* - The control of land usage by city, county or State authorities with power to limit the property use to these standards.

*Definitions taken from Chicago Title Insurance Company. Title Examiners' Workshop Handout. Glossary of Terms for the Title Company Employee. Fairfax. 9 Oct. 1989.







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