A quiet title action represents an equitable proceeding whose purpose is “to establish superiority of title in property.” Ownership of a parcel of real estate is not an absolute concept. A lawyer will typically associate “ownership” of land with having the legal rights to the “highest quality estate which a person can have in [a parcel of] real estate.” This is commonly known as “fee simple title” to the parcel in question or a “fee simple estate.” American Land Title Association describes “fee simple” as follows:
Generally speaking, it means unqualified ownership of land with unqualified power of disposition. Unqualified ownership does not mean that such ownership cannot be subject to outstanding encumbrances and interests of a lower quality than fee simple. A person may hold a fee simple title to real estate, but such a title may be subject to easements, mortgages, restrictions, leases, mining rights, and numerous other rights and interests.
The law school example is to think of a parcel of land as a bundle of sticks, with each stick representing a specific interest in that land. One of the sticks is the right to actually be on the land, the right of possession. Another stick entitles you to convey the land to someone else, the right of alienability or transfer. Another stick entitles you to inherit the land, the right of inheritance. Another stick entitles you to mortgage or put a lien on the property, and so on. When one owner holds the whole bundle of sticks, that is historically called a “Fee Simple Estate”. A Fee Simple estate is generally what you think of when someone says “I own some land”. Fee Simple is also the highest and most valuable estate with respect to land.
Quiet title actions involve a lawsuit to establish a clear title to property or remove uncertainties/doubts concerning the ownership of that property. A quiet title lawsuit will “quit” any challenges or claims to a title, hence the term “quiet the title”. The purpose is to establish superiority of title in property. This means that the title to the property is “insurable” or “marketable.”
There are many types of actions for which the Titus Law Firm will use to quiet title. The first is prescriptive title, such as adverse possession, rights of way, etc. There are many instances where people or entities will claim rights to the property (adverse possession and/or squatters rights) to which they are not entitled or overreach the limits of their legal rights (overuse on an easement or right of way). There are also specific encumbrances to title such as satisfied liens, mortgages, security deeds etc. These encumbrances can “cloud” the title and make it difficult to sell or insure the property. Finally, there are tax or foreclosure deeds that can be used to cut off equities and redemption in the property.
There are also many different procedures or remedies of a quiet title action such as declaratory judgment, reformation, or rescission. A declaratory judgment declares the right or other legal relations of a specific party seeking such a declaration. This is common when there are title clouds such as old mortgages or incorrect legal descriptions on deeds. Reformation can be used to reform and contract/instrument to reflect the original intentions of the parties. Finally, rescission can cancel and instrument that was either procured unlawfully or has outlived its usefulness.
Quiet title can also be used to establish ownership of:
If you are dealing with a dispute about the title of your property, do not hesitate to contact an attorney at our Overland Park real estate firm today. We will carefully research your case, file your claim, and provide notice of the lawsuit to the correct parties. If your claim is contested, we can patiently help you to navigate the process of quiet title litigation. Our experienced property attorneys have run title and litigated property disputes in counties across Kansas and Missouri.
 See American Land Title Association (ALTA) “ALTA’s Land Title Institute – Title 101″ at 7 (https://www.alta.org/media/pdf/CH01.pdf) (last viewed Sept. 8, 2020).