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Recorded Documents


Making Real Estate Changes Official

Whenever land changes hands in California, certain documents must be "recorded"  with the county. Common recordable forms can be downloaded free from the Law Library's Forms Page (http://www.saclaw.org/pages/forms-page.aspx).  

The county recorder keeps these "title" documents as public records showing ownership of the land. Prospective buyers and lenders search these records to verify property ownership and whether property is subject to any mortgages, liens, or easements.

In Sacramento County, as in many counties, the recorder's office is combined with the county clerk's office (http://www.ccr.saccounty.net/). The office is located at:

Sacramento County Clerk/Recorder
600 8th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 874-6334

An index of records since 1850 (showing names and document titles, but not document contents) can be searched online at http://bit.ly/1fP0n5T. The documents themselves can be searched and viewed in person. Copies of documents may be ordered from the Recorder's Office.

Commonly recorded documents include deeds, liens, homestead forms, affidavits of death of joint tenants or trustees, and other forms related to ownership of property. Documents must follow specific format and content requirements (see http://bit.ly/PqU2a2).   

A documentary transfer tax is required for any recorded document reflecting the sale of real property. (Gifts and other non-sales are exempt.) Payment must be made when the document is recorded.  See http://bit.ly/1gS8XVK for more information on this tax.

Documents transferring ownership (whether by sale, gift, or other transaction) must always be accompanied by a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report, available at http://bit.ly/1k43xKo.

SELF-HELP MATERIAL

These books are highly regarded "plain English" explanations of the law, written by attorneys or other legal experts. They include basic legal discussion and procedures. Many of the titles include forms with instructions, and models of other documents that may be required. Some of the books have CDs that supplement the text and provide interactive forms. All of these are found in the Self-Help section of the Law Library.

1. Overview

Deeds for California Real Estate KFC 170 .Z9 R36
This book, published by Nolo Press, a respected publisher of self-help legal books, is a guide to choosing the right kind of deed, completing the required forms, and filing them. It also discusses related legal issues such as disclosure requirements, community property issues, and tax and estate planning. It contains forms for most transfers of property.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

2. Transfers After Death

How to Probate an Estate in California  KFC 205 .Z9 N57
Also by Nolo Press, this book discusses deeds, particularly in Chap. 8 ("Transferring Title to Real Property"), and includes sample deeds and information on recording documents, as well as other probate topics.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

3. Sales of Real Property

How to Buy a House in California KFC 170 .Z9 W37
Nolo Press. Discusses the different forms of title available when creating a deed in Chapter 20.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

LEGAL ENCYCLOPEDIAS & LAW SUMMARIES

Legal encyclopedias provide a summary of the law on specific topics, including the law concerning deeds. These materials include references to applicable statutes and cases.

Witkin's "Summary of California Law" KFC 80 .W5 (Ready Reference)
Witkin's Summary is a standard starting point for California research. The Summary covers a huge range of topics and includes discussion and case references. Real property transfers and deeds are discussed in Vol. XVII (Real Property), Chap. III (Titles), § E (Deeds).
Electronic Access:  On the law library computers, using WestlawNext.

California Jurisprudence ("Cal Jur") 3d KFC 80 .C35 (Ready Reference)
Another standard California resource covering a multitude of topics. Deeds are discussed in Vol. 26, and records and recording laws are discussed in Vol. 55, beginning with § 49.
Electronic Access:  On the law library computers, using WestlawNext.

PRACTICE GUIDES

Although these types of books are written for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These materials provide more detailed information than the self-help books.

California Real Property Sales Transactions 3d  KFC 169 .C34
Vol. 2, Section 9.6 relates to deeds.
Electronic Access:  On the law library computers, using OnLaw.

California Real Estate (Miller & Starr) KFC 140 .M51
Deeds are discussed in Vol. 3, Chap. 8.
Electronic Access:  On the law library computers, using WestlawNext

California Forms of Pleading and Practice  KFC 1010 .A65 C3 (Ready Reference)
Vol. 15, Chap. 184 discusses deeds.
Electronic Access:  On the law library computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

Miller & Starr California Real Estate  KFC140 .M51
This set of books provides a very in-depth look at real property transactions and disputes in California. Chapter 11 discusses "Recording and Priorities," while Chapter 12 focuses on "Holding Title."
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

California Title Insurance Practice  KFC300 .C34
This CEB book covers the business of issuing insurance guaranteeing clear title to property. To do this, the title company analyzes the recorded documents related to the property to generate a "title report." Chapter 4, "Title Search and Surveys," gives an in-depth look at how title companies create this report.
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

FORMS

1.            Fillable Forms Online

The Sacramento County Public Law Library has prepared fillable versions of common forms for your use. Most also have samples and instructions. Please note that these forms may not be suitable for all situations. You are advised to consult an attorney or do additional research before relying on them. These forms may be found at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/forms-page.aspx.   

  • Grant Deed
  • Quitclaim Deed
  • Full Reconveyance
  • Substitution of Trustee
  • Substitution of Trustee and
    Full Reconveyance
  • Homestead Declaration
  • Homestead Declaration –
    Spouses
  • Abandonment of Declared
    Homestead
  • Affidavit: Surviving Spouse/
    Domestic Partner
  • Affidavit: Death of Joint Tenant
  • Affidavit: Death of Trustee
  • Mechanics' Lien
  • Release of Mechanics Lien
  • Stop Notice
  • Release of Stop Notice

1.            Formbooks 

Formbooks provide sample forms to use or customize. Practice guides will often have forms as well. Here are a few formbooks that include discussions of recording laws and recorded documents.

Law Office Procedures Manual  KFC 77 .L44   
This reference manual includes sample filled-out forms for grant deeds, quitclaim deeds, deeds of trust, deeds of full reconveyance, and a Preliminary Change of Ownership form. 

Recorders' Document Reference and Indexing Manual  KFC100.R43 .R43 (Reference Desk)
This manual, produced by the County Recorders' Association of California, provides the user with basic document requirements, what can or cannot be recorded, and definitions common to legal documentation and the recording process. Best of all, it provides samples of hundreds of common and uncommon recordable documents, which can be customized to fit almost any situation.

California Real Property Practice Forms Manual  KF140 .A65  (Chaps. 7 & 8)
Chapter 7 of this book includes language for standard and more unusual deed situations, including life estates, reservation of rights, terminations of long-term leases, agent signatories, and the like. Chapter 8 includes property descriptions for interests such as mineral rights or easements. Forms available on the accompanying CD-ROM.

WEB SITES

Sacramento County's Online Index of Recorded Documents
http://bit.ly/1fP0n5T
An index of records since 1849 (showing names and document titles, but not document contents). The documents themselves can only be searched and viewed in person. Copies of documents may be ordered from the Recorder's Office.

California County Registrars and Recorders http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/pages/countyrecorderoffice.aspx
A complete list of contact information for recorder's offices throughout California from  the California Department of Public Health.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Senior Legal Hotline
444 North 3rd Street, #312
Toll Free: (800) 222-1753; Sacramento County: (916) 551-2140; Fax: (916) 551-2197
http://www.seniorlegalhotline.org/ 
Services provided: Free legal assistance for Sacramento residents age 60 and over on almost any civil issue, including real estate issues.

Updated 4/2014 kf