If a deed to property is executed but not recorded, who is the owner?

UPDATED: Jun 3, 2011

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If a deed to property is executed but not recorded, who is the owner?

My aunt gave my mom a warranty deed to a plot of land back in 1975. However she told my mom not to register the deed with the county unless something happened to her. Now my aunt just passed away at the beginning of the year but the property taxes for the previous year were not paid before her death. There has been a Temporary Administrator appointed over herestate but he says that the estate is not liable for the 2010 taxes to this plot because technically my mom owned the land since 1975. I question this because my Mom just recorded the deed a few days ago, so in 2010 the land still belonged to my aunt.

Asked on June 3, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The fact is, recorded or not, once a deed is executed title to the property is transferred. Accordingly, the person who is named as the grantee, as the new owner, is responsible for all ownership obligations, including but not limited to, the payment of taxes. The fact is that a deed need not be recorded in order to be valid. However, recording a deed is advisable. A recorded deed notifies the world that as to who the true owner of the property is. An unrecorded deed is vulnerable to:

  • Being lost/destroyed (in which event if the grantor dies or changes their mind there is no proof of ownership),
  • Made invalid (if a new deed to a new grantee is recorded before yours), or
  • Made subordinate to any future lien that may be placed against the property (in the case of a judgement lien, for example). 

Bottom line, your mother is liable for all back taxes since the date of the deed.

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