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Massachusetts Agencies

Dates of Instruments

Deeds and Conveyances

The date on an instrument is irrelevant for the most part. All it signifies is the day the instrument wassigned. But the signing of a deed is not what gives the instrument its effect; it is the delivery of the deed that causes the title to pass. (Delivery can be to one of multiple grantees . See Hanson v. Griswold, 221 Mass. 228, 108 N.E. 1035 (1915).

So insignificant is the mere date of a deed that delivery may be averred and proved to be either before or after the date; and if an absurd or impossible date, or no date at all, be found, the grantee may prove the time of execution, if important to be proved, by witnesses." Parker, C.J. inHarrison v. Trustees of Phillips Academy, 12 Mass. 456 (1815).

Although the date on the deed furnishes prima facie evidence that it was delivered at that time,Lexington v. Ryder, 296 Mass. 566, 6 N.E.2d 828 (1937), this presumption is overcome by other recitals in the instrument itself.

For example:

  1. A deed may bear a date prior to that of the grantee trust (i.e., the trust was not in existence and capable of taking title when the deed was signed), when the instruments were recorded (that is, delivered) the deed was completed to reflect the particulars of the trust to which the delivery was being made.
  2. A deed from a fiduciary which refers to a license for the power to convey, it is clear from the recitals in the deed—that is, the reference to the license—that it was delivered after the license was granted (or the delivery was to be deemed effective after that time), even though it might have been signed beforehand. It is clear from such recitals that the intent of the grantors in such a case is that no delivery will be made of the instrument before that time, as its operative effect is stated as being contingent thereon. In this regard, delivery is a matter of intent and is not even dependent upon the manual transfer of the instrument. See Creeden v. Mahoney, 193 Mass. 402, 79 N.E. 777 (1907).

In Dresel v. Jordon, 104 Mass. 407 (1870) it was said that the mere fact that the date of a deed in the chain of title to land is subsequent to the date of its acknowledgment will not justify a refusal to take a conveyance of the land on the ground that the title is not clear and satisfactory.

In this regard, REBA's Title Standard 21 ("Scriveners' Errors") adopts the Dresel rule, and provides that:

A title is not defective by reason of . . . [i]nconsistencies in, or lack of dates of, execution and acknowledgement.