What Is Legal Proof of Property Ownership?

Title deed for a house
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To prove legal ownership of a parcel of real property, you'll need a deed. If you want to prove that you own a vehicle, you'll need a title. You may need to produce the deed or title to verify your ownership for various reasons. If you lose your copy of a deed, you can get a copy at the register of deeds in the county where the property is located. If you lose your car title, you can order a replacement title from the DMV.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

A deed is proof of legal ownership of a parcel of real estate; a title is proof of ownership in a motor vehicle, which can include RVs and mobile homes.

Ownership Evidenced by Title or Deed

The title or deed to a piece of property, whether it be land or vehicle, is the most basic form of proof of ownership. Deeds should be recorded with the county where the property is located. Deeds reflect ownership in real estate, including land and buildings, while titles reflect ownership in a vehicle, like a car, truck, trailer, mobile home or RV. If you can't find your deed, you can get a copy at the register of deeds in the county where the property is located; if you need a duplicate title, you can order one from the state's department of motor vehicles.

Alternatively, Use a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is a document written by the seller of a piece of property to the buyer that transfers the ownership of the property. The bill of sale also documents the basic agreement of the sale and acts as a sales receipt. The bill of sale usually serves as evidence of a transfer of the property until the title or deed can be transferred and notarized. While a Bill of Sale is merely proof that you contracted to purchase the property and not proof of ownership, it may be sufficient in some circumstances.

Significance of Property Ownership

For business owners and entrepreneurs, property ownership is fundamental, in most cases, to starting a business. If you need to borrow money to fund business operations or to buy equipment or inventory, a lender will typically need something to secure the loan. This may include requiring you to give the lender a lien on real estate or personal property you or the business own.

Lost Titles or Deeds

Lost titles or deeds must be reclaimed at the county clerk's office, where you can look up your property in the land file records. The register of deeds may have its records online, but if not, you can search in person using either your last name or in some cases, the property address or parcel ID number. If you lose a car title, you can order a new one from your state DMV for a fee.

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