Massachusetts Agencies

Paralegal Page - Fast Facts for Paralegals

Articles from The Massachusetts Focus

Newsletter of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Massachusetts Offices
Winter 2004, Volume 3, Number 1

Paralegal Page — Fast Facts for Paralegals
by Pamela Butler O'Brien, Underwriting Counsel

Which Direction is North?

Why does it sometimes happen that property lines seem to shift between one plan and another? The answer may lie in the difference between true north and magnetic north. With more precise satellite imaging and GPS tools available more surveyors are using true north, as opposed to magnetic north easily determined by compass. The variation between true north and magnetic north can be as much as ten to fifteen percent. You can tell whether a surveyor used true north or magnetic north by the north arrow he draws on the survey. If the arrow is filled out on both sides of the shaft, the surveyor used true north. If the arrow is filled out on only one side, the surveyor used magnetic north. 

Why Title Insurance?

In the 2000 ALTA conducted a survey of their title agents. The survey encompassed six million purchase transactions. Refinance transactions were not included in the survey. In that survey, ALTA determined that one out of every four real estate transactions where people were moving into home, some work had to be done to fix the title. That's twenty-five percent of closings! Bet the sellers with title insurance were happy. 

Accounting Changes Rule 1.15

In the Fall 2003 Newsletter the new accounting changes for attorneys under Rule 1.15 were presented. Those changes were to go into effect January 1, 2004. In response to requests from the bar, the implementation of those changes has been postponed until July 1, 2004. 

Executive Order 13224 - Patriot Act

As a result of Executive Order 13224 settlement agents are required to check both their buyers and sellers against the national registry of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. You have heard that the Patriot Act requires lenders, and may require closing attorneys, to positively identify their buyers and sellers. How do you verify that your people are not on the list? has an easy way for you to comply. From the home page of click on site map. From the site map scroll down to the Real Estate Professional block and click on "Special Alerts." You will now be in a location where you can type in the names and it will search the registry for you. As an added benefit, if you are dealing with a new lender you can enter their name and search to see if Stewart Title has any alerts relative to your lender. 

Late at Night Questions Regarding Forms

Once again, you are sitting at your desk burning the midnight oil. The lender's closing instructions call for an endorsement to the title insurance policy you have never heard of. The friendly Stewart Title underwriters have left for the day. What to do? to the rescue. On Stewart Title's virtual underwriting site you can look up forms and the general underwriting guidelines associated with the forms. From the main menu click OK after the disclaimer. Then click on forms. From here you will get the most complete set of forms if you click on either ALTA or CLTA, and not MA. If your closing instructions call for a form with three digits, e.g. 111, you are probably looking for a CLTA form. If the instructions call for a single digit form, e.g. 8.1, you are probably looking for an ALTA form. Scroll through the list of forms and click on the one you are looking for. A sample of the form will show on your screen. At the bottom of the form there is a colored block marked Guidelines. If you click on that key it will give you the general underwriting guidelines for the use of that form. From there you can determine if you need to do more work, for example take a look at restrictive covenants. Of course, you can always leave a message for your friendly underwriter to call in the morning with answers to your specific questions.