The Importance of Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

Miami SkylineI like to call this, “Story Time with Khani & Auerbach”. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a lovely lady regarding a Time Share transfer. The transfer to our caller was conducted back in 2007, but she had some concerns about her ownership interest and wanted to know where she stood. She wanted to ensure that she was in fact the owner and had an ownership interest that she thought she purchased. After doing very light research in the public records, I uncovered two transfers that gave me pause.

The first transfer was conducted in 2001, a Quit-Claim Deed. This Quit-Claim Deed, at first blush, looked really official, as it had been prepared by an attorney. But, as a real estate attorney practicing for 20 years in this field, I never quite trust that any document is prepared accurately, regardless if it’s prepared by an attorney or not. As luck would have it, the document was poorly drafted and the intentions of the transferor/grantor are really unclear. I would do the next best thing and reach out to the attorney that prepared the document. What do you think I would find next? The phone number provided on the Deed was disconnected and after some further inquiry, I found that the attorney was suspended several years ago, had never reapplied to the Bar and was no longer licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. So, the first brick wall in my research was erected. What now?

I wanted to look at the second transfer made in 2007 to my client and found that the preparation of this document was even worse than the one made in 2001. This document looked like someone found a form at Office Depot and just filled in whatever they felt might look right. Well, nothing was right about it and it was ALL WRONG. The second brick wall in my research had now been erected. Now, you might say to yourself, “But, the County recorded this document, so it must be accurate.” Let me be clear when I say, the County will record ANYTHING you put in front of them as long you pay the required fees. They are an administrative agency and they do NOT practice real estate law and do not know anything about the history of the subject property. Furthermore, they have no obligation to know these things. All they do is record documents and collect taxes and fees.

So, now I am reviewing two poorly prepared documents/transfers and have the honor of telling the caller that not only are the transfers poorly prepared, but she may not even have ownership. The next question on your mind may be, “How could any of this been prevented?” Simply, by hiring a Real Estate attorney. A Real Estate attorney has the knowledge and experience to do the job accurately in the first place, avoiding the exact same situation we are presented with in this case.

Now, the first deed prepared in 2001 was, in fact, drafted by an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Florida, but what I don’t know is how this attorney was found and whether he focused his practice on real estate or not. In addition to hiring an attorney, knowing whether an attorney focuses on real estate is even more important than just hiring any attorney. In this case, I just couldn’t determine this attorney’s area of practice and had to assume he just didn’t know what he was doing. As for the second deed prepared in 2007, well, that was just two parties trying to save a buck. Look where we are now. Unraveling these terrible transfers and correcting these poorly drafted deeds will take more effort, more time and certainly cost more money than all the parties could have ever imagined. All of this could have been prevented just by hiring a real estate attorney in the first place.

About the Writer
Khila Khani is a partner with Khani & Auerbach. Her practice focus has been in Real Estate law for 20 years.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Should you wish to discuss any potential matters with her or her partner, you can contact them here.