General Information About the Forms
Most of the document forms are formatted in a manner that provides a great amount of information in the headings. When using any of the forms, you should consider the following:
- Title. The title of each form is a brief description of the instrument. Many jurisdictions require that any document to be filed of record, contain a title. In many of the forms, following the title, is a brief description of the form, in parenthesis. This additional description has been provided for your benefit in identifying the type of transaction intended to be dealt with in the form. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR FINALIZED INSTRUMENT, AND MAY BE DELETED WHEN PREPARING YOUR DOCUMENT.
- Headings. Some of the forms are in a format that contains headings. The heading information is deemed part of the form and, if used, care should be taken to correctly set out the applicable information.
These headings are:
State. This is the name of the state in which the lands, leases, or property that are the subject of your instrument are located.
County. This is the name of the county in which the lands, leases, or property that are the subject of your instrument are located. If the instrument is applicable to lands, leases, or property located in more than one county, the heading may be stated in the plural, and all counties identified by name.
Grantor/Grantee, Assignor/Assignee (or any other name given to the parties to the instrument you are preparing). Unless modified, this is probably the only place in the text of the instrument that a party is identified by name. Care should be taken to set out each party’s full, complete, name. The parties’ addresses should follow the name.
Effective Date. This is the date the transaction that is the subject of your document is deemed effective. (It is not uncommon for this date to be different (usually earlier) than the date the instrument is actually signed.)
- Define Terms. In addition to the names of the parties to the instrument, the forms use defined terms. Examples are “Lands,” “Leases,” “Property,” etc. This is the reason these words or terms are capitalized in the forms. Care should be taken to accurately describe or identify the item, as it is then only referred to in the instrument by that term. The use of defined terms can prevent confusion as to what “Lands” or “Leases,” are being referred to, or are the subject of your document.
- Signatures. Most of the forms identify the signing party with the title that party has been given in the instrument (Owner, Assignor, etc.). Some state statutes may require, and it is always recommended, that the name of the signing party(ies) (and if the signing party(ies) are acting in any capacity other than individuals, his or her title) be typed in the instrument immediately beneath the signature line.
If the signing party is a corporation, partnership, trust, or any organization or association other than an individual, following the title (“Operator,” “Lessee,” “Grantor,” etc.) the name of the organization or association should be typed above the signature line.
Some, but not all of the forms provide signature lines for more than one party to the instrument. The signature of a granting or consenting party is always required for the instrument to be effective. In some instances it may be advisable (or by the terms of the instrument required, as in the case of an agreement) that the party to whom the grant is being made also sign the instrument. While there may be no statutory requirement that the grantee to an instrument join the grantor in signing an instrument, the practice of both parties signing an instrument seems to be growing.
- Acknowledgments. The document forms do not have forms of acknowledgment included in, or attached to the document forms. The signature to almost all instruments SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED. There is a separate Section providing forms of acknowledgment for most states.
Some information concerning acknowledgments is:
- If you are preparing a document that will be, or may ever be, recorded (and all instruments relating to, effecting, or transferring any interest in real property should be), the signing party or parties signatures should be acknowledged.
- The form of acknowledgment to use (the statutorily prescribed forms vary from state to state) should be the form prescribed by the state in which the instrument will be recorded regardless of the location, residence, or domicile of the signing party. As an example, if an Oklahoma resident is signing a document affecting an interest in property in the state of Texas, and the instrument will be recorded in a Texas county, a Texas form of acknowledgment should be used. Similarly, if a California resident who has traveled to Texas to sign instruments affecting property in Illinois, and the instrument will be recorded in an Illinois county, an Illinois form of acknowledgment should be used.
The acknowledgment forms available have their own headings that identify a state and county. The headings in the acknowledgment should include the name of the state and county in which the acknowledgment is administered, regardless of the state form of acknowledgment utilized. For example, the notary that acknowledges the signature of the California resident who is in Texas to sign an instrument affecting property in Illinois, will insert in the acknowledgment heading the state name Texas, the name of the Texas county in which the instrument is actually being signed, which is followed by the text of the form of acknowledgment prescribed by statute in the state of Illinois.
- While the process of having a signature acknowledged, and using the correct form of acknowledgment is typically considered a ministerial function it is very important. An improperly acknowledged instrument may be recorded by a clerk, but by law or statute, notwithstanding the fact it is included in a volume of recorded instruments in a courthouse, it may be deemed void or voidable, having no more effect than if it was never signed!
- Attachments and Exhibits. If the text of your document provides for an exhibit or attachment to accompany the document, this is identified at the end of the form. This notation is a reminder to the preparer of the document. It may be deleted when the document is being completed and the exhibit or attachment has been prepared, or there is none.
- Who Prepared the Document? Some states require that the name and address of the person preparing the document be included in the document. Before forwarding a document for recording, you should determine if the state in which it is being recorded requires this to be included in the document. (This may be done by contacting and asking the county clerk.) If so, you should determine if there is any requirement as to the location, on the document, of this statement (on the first page, or bottom of the last page, etc.). If this information is required, it can be added to the document by adding the following:
This Document was Prepared by: (Name and Address)
- Where to Return the Document After Recording? It is not uncommon for someone other than a party to a document (e.g., a landman or lawyer) to forward it to a County Clerk’s office for recording. While the cover letter may specify to whom and where the document is to be returned after recording, it is a good practice to actually include that information on the document itself. This information may be included on the top or bottom of the first page of the document or the bottom of the back page of a document. This information can be included by adding the following:
After Recording, Please Return to: (Name and Address)
- Formatting. Some jurisdictions or counties require that the document be formatted in a certain size font and there be specific margins on all sides of the document. It is suggested that you contact the county clerk of the county where the document will be recorded to determine if there are such requirements for that jurisdiction.