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A Rose By Any Other Name

“Do I have to use my real name on the contract?” I was asked by a client I have known socially for 20+ years.

I told her that unless she was paying cash and didn’t want to claim the real property tax credit from the IRS, she should definitely use her “real name” in the transaction.  And what was that name, anyway?

It turns out that she was using the name of a flower, when in fact she shared the name of a former queen of England.  Seems she’d hated her “stuffy” name growing up, and once she left for college, introduced herself to everyone with her made-up botanical moniker.  It’s perfectly OK to use invented names or nicknames provided you are not looking to avoid prosecution or defeat creditors, I explained, but she should conduct the transaction in the name she was known to the government.


Photo by media4ward

Of course, this story reminds me of another.  One of the title company closing documents all buyers and sellers sign at closing is an “Affidavit of No Other Name.” As most judgments last for 10 years, and title companies want to be assured that there will be no surprise liens, it is routine when coming to the document for me to ask clients, “Have you been known by any other legal* names in the past 10 years?”


Sometime in the 1990s, a woman responded to the question with “Ummm…can I see you outside for a minute?” She and I walked into the corridor, where she proceeded to tell me that though she and her husband had been married a few years, there had been another marriage and divorce within 10 years that she had never told husband number two!

She looked pale and started to shake. “I don’t want to commit fraud on that affidavit,” she said.  Setting aside my amazement that a standard affidavit was  more intimidating than a marriage vow, I told the client to stay right there.  Without explanation, I asked the title closer to accompany me outside the room, where she notarized my client’s signature in the hallway. 

There was certainly an elephant in the room for the rest of that closing.  To this day, I don’t know if her husband ever questioned what went on in the corridor, and if she broke the news to him that he wasn’t her one and only.

*I now add the “legal” modifier after having way too many husbands and wives share their pet names for each other.

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