Besides life, the first gift we are ever given on this earth is our name. It is the one thing we carry our whole life, and with rare exceptions, it stays with us to the end of days. We use it to introduce ourselves, apply for jobs, complete government paperwork, and so much more. So, what is in a name when it comes to real estate contracts?
Stay tuned to think through some reasons why the names are so important.
In Alberta, the land titles system catalogs a lot of data on your property, including legal description, land size, registrations, and more, but only one piece of information that ties you to it. That piece of information you may have guessed is your name; without it, you simply have a property information statement, not a land title.
The name indicated on the land title is the legally registered owner, and that name is the only name that can be used to defend the claim to the property ownership. Although Calvin may be referred to as Cal, Patricia or Pat, only the legally given name should be registered on the title to tie the property to an individual.
For a REALTOR® who is listing the property for marketing and sale, you can use whatever name the seller likes in conversation, but not on the legal documents. Legal documents such as seller representation agreements, and purchase contracts must be verified to match the individual’s government-issued ID and the land title for the property they are listing. Anything less than an exact match should be questioned, and further investigation or documentation should be requested since anything less than an exact match could call into question the legality of their ownership of that property. It almost only counts in hand-grenades and horseshoes.
So what happens if Cal or Pat sell their home and want to buy another? Well, it is a classic chicken and egg scenario in that the property they buy will likely need financing and one day need to be sold. For this reason, the buyer’s legal name, as verified by a government-issued photo ID, should be used on the purchase contract. When they apply for a mortgage, the lender will verify their legal names and will want the legal names on the contract to match to secure their investment since those will be the names registered on the land title. If they use their nickname for example, on the contract and it makes it through to land title registration, it will likely cause them an issue in the future when trying to mortgage or sell the property.
In scenarios where a wife has changed her name after marriage or a husband has changed his name (it’s the 21st century folks), the maiden or pre-marital name may still be on the title, but all the government ID shows the married name. It is extremely rare these days that a spouse will undergo a legal name change through the court system, but rather take the marriage certificate to the Alberta Registries office and get a driver’s license changed to the married name. This is not a true legal name change in the full sense of that term, but a registration of an A.K.A. or “Also Known As” alias. The original legal name in that instance is still registered to that individual as it were, but they now can use the new married name in their interactions in society. This means in such a scenario, if a REALTOR® went to list the property and the names didn’t match on the title because one name is pre-marital, the REALTOR® simply needs to get a copy of the marriage certificate for the brokerage file as verification they are dealing with the same individual, and then continue to list the property in the name matching title. The married person can still sign with their married signature since they are still the same individual; there is no need to try signing with their pre-marital signature.
One of the most important roles of a REALTOR® in the listing and sale of real property is helping the parties create enforceable contracts. Properly using legal names and understanding why they are important will help everyone navigate through with the least number of complications. At least in the context of real estate, now you should know the answer to the question Shakespeare posed in the play Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?”
Provincial Practice Advisor
Bryan has many years of experience in the real estate industry including over 10 years as a former broker in the Edmonton Region.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone: 403-209-3619