An abstract is a summary or history of the title to a piece of property. It consists of notes regarding, or copies of, all of the documents pertaining to the title of a particular piece of property, based upon the original documents filed in the office of the Clerk of Court. The abstract process is much like putting a puzzle together. It involves gathering information from a variety of sources, such as conveyance, mortgage, tax and assessors offices. The basic information on a piece of property includes:
Location and dimensions—address, lot, square and subdivision, or acreage in section, township and range
Names of parties to the transaction, including first, middle or maiden, and last name, plus marital status
Consideration (price paid)
Other terms of the transaction
Mortgages, liens, or other encumbrances affecting the piece of property
Status of property taxes
Most of the information on property is contained in two sets of books at the courthouse:
COB (Conveyance Office Books)—where all types of property transfers are filed, including acts of sale, donations, quitclaims, judgments of possession, restrictive covenants, servitudes, leases, or any transaction that would transfer a piece of property, or give rights to others.
MOB (Mortgage Office Books)—where all types of mortgages, liens and money judgments are filed, which may attach to a particular property or owner.
In addition, tax information from the assessor's and tax collector's offices is gathered to insure that there are no problems regarding property taxes affecting the property.
To begin the abstract process, the title researcher checks the COB, which generally gives the following information:
All present and previous owners to create the “chain of title”
Copies of, or notes pertaining to, previous transactions to make sure the information is consistent:
Is the legal description of the property the same for each transaction?
Do all the names involved match from the purchase to the sale?
Did a notary sign the transaction?
Are there two witnesses to each transaction?
Are all appropriate documents attached?
Are there any restrictions, servitudes or other provisions recorded for the particular subdivision?
The names are then checked in the MOB for additional information, including:
Are all mortgages canceled?
Are there any uncanceled judgments?
Are there any tax liens?
Are there any paving or other liens filed by the parish or municipality?
The next step is to perform tax research to confirm critical tax information:
The past three years are checked to make sure all property taxes have been paid
Is there a homestead exemption on the property?
What was the assessed value of the property?
What was the amount of taxes for the previous year?
Who paid the taxes? If the taxes were not paid by the current owners, they may have been paid through a tax sale.
The final check for the abstractor is to make sure there are no “missing links” or other issues that may affect title to the property.
Finally, all the information is organized into a standardized format for the title attorney to examine.