County register of deeds duties: Part 2

The Guide to Michigan County Government is a great source of detailed information about the structure, function, and services provided by counties in Michigan.

Part one of this series talked about the specific responsibilities of the register of deeds in the keeping of real property records. The register also has other duties outlined in state law. Ken VerBurg, MSU professor emeritus talks about some of those in the 2007 edition of his book, Guide to Michigan County Government.

“Registers ordinarily receive and record other types of related documents as well. Among them are assignments of mortgages and securities, attachments, notices or lis pendens (suits pending), sheriff's deeds, U.S. marshals' claims, certificates of sale, and, of course, discharges of these documents when they are filed. The law instructs registers to note the day, hour, and minute of such recordings. These recordings, the law states these documents, ". . . shall be notice to all persons of the liens, rights and interests acquired by [others]." Registers may also record death certificates in some circumstances and affidavits regarding the marital status of parties signing a document if the documents do not so indicate. Note, however, that these documents do not routinely find their way into the registers' offices. Parties with an interest in the property must take the initiative.

Registers of deeds also accept financing statements on most personal property when they are presented for filing. For example, if you buy a new appliance and agree to pay the merchant in installments, the merchant could register the contract. Registers of deeds retain these documents for a period of five years. Documents recorded in connection with real property are retained in perpetuity.

The significance of the register's role in the buying and selling of real property and property rights, such as oil and gas leases, becomes clear. Without a central place to record such documents, or without an office to manage such records in an orderly and systematic way, society would be hard-pressed to conduct in a dependable way the buying, selling, and owning of real estate.

The various statutes direct registers regarding the basic organization of their various records. The acts define the kinds of books and indexes that the registers must maintain but they now also permit microphotographic as well as digital formats to the recording and indexing of these documents.”

The county register of deeds is a critically important local official, providing a great service to us as individuals, and to our society as a whole, by keeping accurate records of property and other transactions.

Watch for future Michigan State University Extension articles with more information about county government. Professor VerBurg’s book, Guide to Michigan County Government, Fourth Edition, is available in electronic form online on a CD or a USB drive with nearly 500 pages of detailed information about county government, with extensive footnotes to constitutional and statutory information. The update process is underway to be sure the information and statutory notations are current, with rollout of the Fifth Edition expected in fall 2016.

Did you find this article useful?