What is a Deed Reformation?

Understanding a deed reformation requires a background in basic property law.  In Massachusetts, like almost every state, transferring an interest in a property is most commonly done through a deed.   The deed states the party giving the property (the “grantor”) and the party receiving the property (the “grantee”).  A standard deed also contains several covenants and warranties as part of the transfer.  Deeds also contain a description of the underlining property.

Deeds are on file (“recorded”) in the county land records, which can be accessed online:  http://www.masslandrecords.com.

As with all legal matters, sometimes things go wrong.  It is not uncommon for deeds to include the wrong parties or the wrong description of land.  In such an occurrence, a reformation cause of action is necessary.  What is a deed reformation?  A deed reformation asks the court to “fix” the deed but issuing a court order declaring what the change to the deed should be.  Grounds for a deed reformation generally require proof of a mutual mistake (where both parties erred in the drafting of the deed), fraud, accident, illegality, or unjust enrichment.

Importantly, a deed reformation cannot be used to take a party’s name off a deed absent one of the grounds listed above.  A party generally must do so through a claim of partition (a court-ordered division of property) or rescission (legal action for cancellation of a contract).

Deed reformations are often fact-intensive cases, requiring parties to make a solid case on why this relief should be granted.  If you find yourself in such a scenario, contact me for a consultation.