Watchful Examiner Helps Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse Prevented
Kathie H., senior title examiner at one of our Central Processing Facilities (CPF), read legal bulletin FGOR-2010-12, that directed her to “Watch; Wonder; Wave” if and when she ever ran across an uninsured deed in a chain of title. The bulletin, issued in 2010, obviously stuck with her through the years and helped her prevent elder abuse as well as a potential title claim.

Elder Abuse PreventedA Ticor Title Company escrow officer in Portland, OR opened a $305,000 sale of a residential property and placed a title order for a preliminary report/commitment. The order was assigned to Kathie H., one of the Company’s best and brightest examiners. During her examination of the chain of title documents for the subject property, she discovered a deed with many red flag warnings:

  • Deed was uninsured – not recorded by a title company
  • DIY – “Do It Yourself” deed from a stationery store
  • Handwritten (not legible)
  • Notarized in Umatilla County, where there was no evidence the Grantor ever resided
  • Deed reflected consideration of $1
  • Grantor is a widow – husband died in 2011
  • Grantor is likely elderly – owned the property since 1985
  • Property is unencumbered

Uninsured Deed Affifavit Requested

After discussing these matters with her chief title officer, Kathie created an exception for the deed on her title report and called for an uninsured deed affidavit signed by the grantor, that it was her voluntary intent to convey all of her interest to the grantee.

The report was sent out to the parties to the transaction and arrangements were made for the widow, former property owner, to appear in one of Ticor’s offices to sign the affidavit which read in part:

“On or about July 7, 2013, I executed a deed wherein I conveyed the above described property to my daughter–in–law. The deed recited the consideration as $1. The deed recorded on August 1, 2013 in the Multnomah County Recorder’s Office.

The true and actual consideration was the promise by my daughter–in–law and my son to take care of me in their home for the remainder of my life in exchange for me conveying my property to them.”

Questions of Elder Abuse

Next, the escrow officer received a call from the Multnomah County aging services about possible elder abuse. The escrow officer notified Kathie, and she investigated public records which showed the daughter–in–law had divorced the son in 2012. He was not even named on the deed from his own mother. Then, the daughter–in–law filed bankruptcy and was now running a massage parlor at the property address.

The escrow officer thought the deal was going to cancel. Luckily, bringing the Mom down to Ticor’s office to sign the affidavit raised some questions with the four children and resulted in the appointment of a conservatorship for the property owner, which means she is now a legally protected person.

The buyer – a religious institution – was willing to wait until the conservatorship was finalized as they really wanted to purchase this property. Once the conservatorship was appointed, all proceeds from the sale would be held by the conservator and not the daughter–in–law.

Watching for suspicious circumstances; Wondering about the validity of the uninsured deed; and Waving to her chief title officer for assistance were exactly the right steps taken by Kathie. Her knowledge and experience prevented a potential claim. For her efforts she has been rewarded and received a letter of recognition from the Company.


Calling for the uninsured deed affidavit created enough attention for the children to start asking questions. If the transaction closed without the affidavit and the ultimate appointment of the conservator, it is likely the children would have contested the validity of the deed to the final buyer – the religious institution. The Company would have had to defend the buyer’s ownership interest under the terms of the owner’s policy that it purchased at closing.

Accommodation Signing Protects Against Elder Abuse

Escrow prevents Elder Abuse

An unknown investor walked into our escrow branch to open an escrow for the purchase of residential property. The investor presented a handwritten contract that contained highly unusual terms. Sheri Davidson, the escrow officer, opened the escrow, but was suspicious based on the terms of the contract, which were as follows:

The Sketchy Contract Terms

Sale Price $256,580
Earnest Money Deposit $500 (POC)
New 1st Loan with Private Lender $58,000
Seller Carryback 2nd $256,580

Note Terms:

  • Principal-only payments for seven years
  • Payments commencing 90 days after closing
  • Borrower has the right to sell the property on a wraparound financing whereas borrower continues to pay seller directly and remain fully responsible for repayment of the note
  • Borrower has the right to substitute other real property with equal or greater equity to secure the remaining balance due of this note

This transaction was not a short sale; the seller owned the property free and clear. Sheri called the seller who was the trustee of a survivor’s trust. She quickly discovered the seller was a widow who lived out of the area and would not be able to come to Sheri’s office to sign the closing documents. Even though Sheri verified the sale price was in line with the current market value of the property based on assessor’s tax roll information and comparable sales, she did not feel comfortable sending out a mobile signing agent. She wanted to be sure the seller knew exactly what kind of deal she was getting.

A Local Escrow Officer is Chosen for the Mobile Signing

Sheri located an office near the seller and contacted Elizabeth Stoops, an escrow officer. Sheri asked Elizabeth if she would be willing to perform the signing and Elizabeth agreed. Elizabeth received the closing documents and reviewed them. She felt equally uncomfortable with the terms.

Elizabeth made the appointment and when the seller arrived, Elizabeth asked for her identification and realized the seller was 74 years old. Elizabeth began to review the closing documents with her and quickly discovered the seller did not know her carryback lien for 100 percent of the sale price was in second position. The seller was aware she would be receiving monthly payments, but was not necessarily aware the payments were principal-only payments. The seller mentioned she was so stressed that she had suffered a stroke over the subject property. One of the most menacing predicaments that brought on the stroke, was that her stepson lived in the property and paid just $200 a month for rent.

Legal Council is Recommended

Elizabeth asked if the seller had an attorney or tax accountant she could confer with over this deal. The seller gave her the name and phone number of her tax accountant, and asked Elizabeth to fax the closing documents to him for his review. The seller spoke with her tax accountant who advised her not to close until she met with an attorney. The accountant sent the closing documents to the seller’s attorney and she scheduled an appointment to meet him the following day. Since the seller had signed the closing documents during her appointment with Elizabeth, Elizabeth felt compelled to hold them until after the attorney reviewed them. Elizabeth informed Sheri of what happened during the signing appointment.


Even though the seller was desperate to change her circumstances and rid herself of a property that had become an albatross, this transaction, according to her attorney, was not her best option.

The buyer had no down payment and no equity, so the chances of him walking away from the property were high! Had this transaction closed and the buyer defaulted on the first loan, the lender would have started foreclosure leaving the elderly seller with one of two options: One, lose her $256,580 nest egg to the first lienholder in a foreclosure action, or two, pay to bring the first loan current. Then she would have had to start foreclosure on her second deed of trust in order to regain ownership to her property.

The Investor Tries to Escalate the Process

Sheri contacted the investor to tell him the deal would not close until the seller’s attorney reviewed the closing documents. The investor decided to escalate his disapproval of her stance not to close. He called the National Escrow Administrator, Lisa Tyler, and demanded Sheri continue the transaction. He claimed the attorney was not on retainer and should not dictate whether or not the transaction closes.

Lisa told the investor the seller was not aware of a number of transaction terms, including:

  • Her carryback deed of trust would be in second position behind the $58,000 first loan
  • She would be receiving principal-only installments against her loan
  • The loan could be wrapped or the collateral could be substituted

The investor denied the allegations and swore she was aware of all the terms but was just, “…confused.” Lisa said, “Therein lies the problem. If she is confused would you want her signing the closing documents? As the notary and as the title insurer, I would not want her signing any documents she did not completely and thoroughly understand.” The investor hung up the phone stating, “It was no use talking to you!”

The Transaction is Halted

After one look at the contract and other closing documents, the attorney called Sheri and put a halt to the transaction. He also issued a letter to the investor demanding he no longer contact his client and insisted that if the investor wanted a refund of his $500 deposit he contact him directly. Elizabeth destroyed the signed documents and Sheri cancelled her file.

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