Legal authority of Registers of Deeds in Massachusetts to reject document(s) and/or instrument(s) for recording in their registries

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Legal authority of Registers of Deeds in Massachusetts to reject document(s) and/or instrument(s) for recording in their registries

Legal authority of Registers of Deeds in Massachusetts to reject document(s) and/or instrument(s) for recording in their registries

MEMO

TO: John O’Brien
Register of Deeds Southern Essex County, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

FROM: Jamie Ranney, Esq.
Jamie Ranney, PC
4 Thirty Acres Lane
Nantucket, MA 02554
508.228.9224 (tel)
508.228-4752 (fax)

DATE: June 18, 2011

RE: Legal authority of Registers of Deeds in Massachusetts to reject document(s) and/or instrument(s) for recording in their registries

QUESTION PRESENTED

What legal authority does a Register of Deeds in Massachusetts have to reject for recording (unregistered land) or registration (Land Court registered land) document(s) and/or instrument(s) in his Registry and where is such legal authority derived from?

SUMMARY

It is without question that a Register of Deeds has an important and fiduciary relationship and responsibility – especially in the Commonwealth where his position is elected – to all of his constituents, as well as to the public at large, all of whom rely and who should be able to rely on the Register’s efforts, supervision, and oversight in assuring, maintaining and promoting the integrity, transparency, accuracy, and consistency of a County’s land records.
The Register’s work and supervision of his registry most often revolves around tasks and responsibilities that are generally ministerial in nature. The Register is typically concerned with the daily task of recording of legal document(s) and/or instrument(s) affecting real property where such document(s) and/or instrument(s) are properly presented to the registry for recording on the public land records.

However, the Register’s fiduciary duty goes well beyond these usual ministerial acts in circumstances where the Register has actual knowledge or a subjective good-faith belief/basis for believing that document(s) and/or instrument(s) being presented for recording or registration in the registry for which he has responsibility are fraudulent or otherwise not executed or acknowledged under applicable law. In such cases the Register may lawfully refuse to record such document(s) and/or instrument(s).

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