The legal profession has two sides. Litigation (i.e., courts, lawsuits, alternative dispute resolution) gets the headlines. Transactional side activities (i. e., contract agreements, real property transactions, wills and estates, etc.) usually remain private between the parties involved except when one of those parties decides to challenge the transaction in court and the disagreement becomes part of a court’s public record. Though the Alameda County Law Library gets the vast majority of its funding from litigation activities (civil filings), it also provides services relating to the many transactions that are required by our government agencies and the legal system.
Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office
No filing of official documents is done at the law library locations, but the staff can and does assist a patron with researching the proper procedures on how to record documents to protect his or her legal rights. We also have copies of forms and templates – samples of the proper language and formatting used for each specific form. Within the library’s various resources, we have numerous forms and templates — more than anyone would ever want to count. The majority of the requests we receive at the ACLL reference desks are for those forms that need to be filed as part of the official records retained by the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.
As the Oakland Main Law Library is around the corner from the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, we have steady flow of traffic in patrons seeking deeds and affidavit forms, as well as, other documents that effect the ownership to real property. These forms need to be filed with the Clerk-Recorder’s Office to have the transaction be included as part of the official chain of title (or ownership) for the property. The County Clerk-Recorder also provides official services for recording documents including but not limited to: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, fictitious business names and mechanics liens. Their office does not supply any paperwork or legal advice. They send people around the corner to ACLL for those resources. Many of the forms are also available on Internet sites. ACLL has its own forms web page but you will need access to a printer. Just make sure whatever website you use is up-to-date with the requirements of California law.
At the reference desk, we sell deed packets ($2.00) to help people with the proper paperwork to record changes in ownership to California real estate. The packets include the form itself, as well as, information sheets including locations of notary services in the area for those forms that require signature before a notary.
There are two especially helpful resources at ACLL for County Clerk-Recorder transactions. The first is the Nolo Press’ Deeds for California Real Estate by Mary Randolph. This title can help the user with choosing the right kind of deed, drafting (correctly word processing) it, then filing it with a county recorder. The text is written in plain-English with step-by-step instructions for completing forms.
Information includes how to :
- add or remove someone’s name from the title of real estate you own
- transfer real estate into, or out of, a revocable living trust
- borrow or lend money with real estate as security
The second item is the title – Recorders’ Document Reference and Indexing Manual: A Training and Reference Manual for State-wide Recording and Indexing Personnel. It is published by the County Recorders’ Association of California. This unique resource is of value to legal researchers who are trying to trying to establish a public record of his or her interest in property. The title includes an index to the majority of recordable documents, as well as, a listing of items that will not be recorded by a California county recorder.
Deeds, as well as, a number of other legal documents require that a signature be notarized. Recent California law has made changes to the language required as part of the notary statement. People who try to file forms or documents that have been notarized using the old language will have their documents rejected by the Clerk-Recorder’s Office. But that is a topic for another blog post in the near future.