Glossary of Terms

A listing of many commonly used terms in the title insurance industry can be found by clicking on the tabs below:


A thru C

Abandonment of Homestead: An instrument to terminate a homestead interest.

Acceleration Clause: A clause in a note, mortgage or deed of trust which give the lender the right to demand payment in full upon a happening of a certain event(s), such as a default.

Acknowledgment: A formal declaration made before a notary, stating the instrument was duly executed by the designated person.

Adverse Possession: A method of acquiring real property from the owner because of continuous, hostile and visible use of the property for a prescribed length of time.

Affidavit: A sworn statement by an individual.

Affidavit of Value: A sworn statement required by the state to be attached to all conveyances, unless it has been specifically exempted. It includes the legal description, tax parcel number and the value of the property.

Agreement for Sale: An instrument that conveys the equitable title to real property and states the manner of payment required for payment in full.

Amortize: A gradual decrease of a debt based on structured payments over a designated number of years.

Assessment: A levy or tax imposed on land to raise revenue or to pay for improvements which benefit the land.

Attachment: A legal procedure where property is taken into custody pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

Attorney in Fact: An agent authorized to act for another by virtue of a power of attorney.

Balloon Payment: A final payment on a note which is greater than the preceding installments.

Base File: A title file that includes all previous title search information on a particular property.

Beneficiary: One who benefits from a trust, or the mortgagee under a deed of trust.

Bill of Sale: An instrument that transfers personal property.

Bulk Sale: The sale of a business.

Chain of Title: A chronological list of the recorded instruments affecting title to real property.

Chattel: Personal property.

Cloud on the Title: An irregularity in the chain of title that could affect the interest of the owner.

Community Property: All property acquired by either husband or wife during the marriage except what is acquired by gift, devise or descent.

Contiguous: Parcels of property that are adjoining.

D thru H

Decree of Distribution: A court order after the probate of a deceased person’s estate, which when recorded, transfers the title to their heirs.

Equity: The monetary interest the owner has in the real property.

Equitable Title/Ownership: Ownership by one who does not have legal title, such as a vendee under a land contract.

Escheat: Process that reverts property to the state when a deceased owner has no apparent heirs, or when a party does not make claim to monies held in escrow.

Estate: The degree, quantity, nature and extent of the interest a person has in real property.

Estoppel: A rule of law which precludes a person from alleging or denying certain facts resulting from their previous conduct or admissions.

Exchange: Transfer of one property for another.

Fiduciary: A trustee.

Fixtures: Personal property that becomes real property when attached to real property.

Foreclosure: A proceeding in or out of court, to extinguish all rights, title and interest of the owner of property in order to sell the property to satisfy a lien against it.

Forfeiture: The process used by the seller or vendor under a land agreement to recover the property from the buyer or vendee in the event of default.

Garnishment: A statutory proceeding wherein a court gives directions to a third party regarding the payment of money.

Heirs: The persons designated in a will, or by operation of law, to succeed to the estate of a deceased person.

Hiatus: A gap unintentionally left when describing two adjacent properties.

I thru L

Incompetent: A person who is incapable of binding himself to an enforceable obligation.

Indemnity: A letter or statement wherein one party agrees to hold harmless another party from loss or damage.

Ingress and Egress: The liberty of entrance and exit from property.

Intestate: A person who dies without leaving a will.

Judgment: A decree entered by the court after final determination of the rights of the parties in legal action.

Lease: A contract where the owner grants to another the possession or use of their property.

Letters of Testamentary: A court order empowering an individual to deal with a deceased person’s estate.

Lien: A charge upon real property as security for the payment of a debt.

Life Estate: The interest in property that exists only for the life of an individual.

M thru P

Metes and Bounds Description: A legal description based on footage and direction prepared through a survey of the property.

Minor: A person of either sex who is not of legal age.

Monuments: Objects or markers used to fix or establish a property boundary.

Novation: Substitution of a new contract, debt or obligation for an existing one, between the same or different parties.

Order Confirming Sale: A court order given during a probate or bankruptcy proceeding which authorizes the sale of a part of the estate property.

Patent: An instrument used by the state or federal government to transfer title to property.

Personal Representative: A court appointed individual who is authorized to deal with the matters of an estate, which was formerly referred to as an administrator or executor.

Power of Attorney: An authority or instrument by which one person (principal) enables another (attorney in fact) to act for him.

Probate: A court proceeding in which descendant’s estate is administered.

Q thru Z

Quiet Title: A court action that clarifies the title to real property.

Reconveyance: Transfer of title to the previous owner, or a release of the lien created by a Deed of Trust.

Reservation: A reservation created by a Grantor in a deed, which establishes a new right or privilege for the benefit of the Grantor in the property.

Resolution: A formal declaration of the will of the group, such as the Board of Directors of a corporation.

Restriction: A limitation upon the owner’s use or right to deal with their land.

Severalty: An estate held by a person in his own right, without being joined by another person.

Special Warranty Deed: A deed that conveys ownership, but only warrants the title to the property for the time period the grantor has had title.

Subordination: An agreement in which the existing lien will take an inferior position to a new or junior lien.

Take Off: An abstract, copy of a summary of matters found in the public records which affect title or rights of person to deal with the property.

Testate: A person who dies leaving a will.

Trust: Property that is held by one party for the benefit of another.

Usury: An interest rate that is greater than the amount which can be legally charged.

Waiver: A voluntary surrender of a right or privilege, such as the right to file a lien.