A reader asks:
I’m buying a home and the title company says that my deed has to show if I’m single or married. I don’t think that is anyone’s business. Do I have to disclose this personal information to them?
The short answer to your question: Yes. While respecting a person’s right to privacy, the title company has an interest in certifying ownership and the legal transfer of ownership.
Although the marital status of the owners may not always be legally required to appear on a deed, most title companies require it as standard practice since omitting it could raise issues later.
The title company will not want to insure the title of the property without confidence that the information on the title is correct. And a mortgage lender will not issue a loan without title insurance.
One reason for the requirement is because Texas is a community property state with strong homestead laws. A buyer or seller’s spouse may have marital property rights or homestead rights, even if they are not listed on the title. There must be a clear chain of ownership, including spouses, on a Texas property used as a primary residence.
Homestead Property Laws
The Texas Constitution requires spouses to join on any transfer of their homestead property. By signing the deed, the selling spouse agrees to relinquish any interests in the property.
Sometimes a spouse may sign the deed to sell even if they are not on the title and the property is not their homestead. It doesn’t give the seller spouse more rights, but simply makes everyone feel more comfortable.
Who’s on the deed?
The ownership name on the deed usually appears styled in one of these (or similar) phrases:
- John Doe, a single person (or “an unmarried man”)
- Jane Doe, a single person (or “an unmarried woman”)
- John Doe and Jane Doe, husband and wife (or “a married couple”)
- John Doe, a single person, and Jane Doe, a single person
- Jane Doe, a married person not joined herein by her spouse, as the property constitutes no part of the couple’s homestead
- John Doe, a married person, joined herein pro forma by his spouse, Jane Doe.
Falsifying Marital Status
If a buyer lies about their marital status on a deed, there are several possible problems. If the deed has false information that is also used on a mortgage application, it is considered illegal. Lying about marital status to gain financing to purchase a property is criminal.
If a seller lies about their marital status when selling and the spouse (or ex-spouse) makes a claim against the title, the seller could face charges and financial losses. The new owners would file a claim on their title insurance and the title insurer would suffer losses as well in pursuing legal action.
Issues with spousal rights are a serious matter for title companies and they seek to avoid potential problems by confirming the accuracy of the marital status of all buyers and sellers.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem.