The Importance of the Written Record

   Recently I was visited by two clients who needed  me to  help  them  tie up the loose ends of their late mother’s financial affairs. These included a land contract which  she  had signed  a few years prior to her death. A “land contract” is an agreement to purchase real property in which the Seller typically allows the Buyer to make installment  payments  for a limited  period  of time — usually from one to five years.  At the end  of that time, the  understanding  is that the Buyer  will  procure an ordinary bank loan and pay off the balance due the Seller.  It is frequently used where a Buyer,  for one reason or another, is unable to obtain  regular financing  but the Seller  is still  anxious  to sell the property.

   In this case, my clients’ late mother was the Seller and the land contract had been drafted by the Buyer, rather than paying for an attorney to draft it. When I looked the land contract over, I saw some ambiguities in it but most importantly, it was not in recordable form; in fact it lacked several formalities that would have been necessary for it to be recorded. It might seem odd that a Buyer would be willing to pay installments aggregating to over $10,000 during a period of several years, but not want to pay a lawyer to have the contract put into a form that would protect ...

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