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What’s in a Name?

I shared this story in May of 2007, so I apologize to long-time readers for the repeat. Since I had occasion to tell this tale the other day, I thought I’d also re-tell it here.

Locally, when title companies seek to be sure that neither home sellers nor buyers have judgments or liens against them, they search the parties’ names in the County Clerk’s database.  No date of birth, no Social Security number, or any other individual info is entered to distinguish one “Joe Smith” from another.

To cover their butts as well as to clear up any cases of mistaken or overlooked identity, title companies ask home sellers to sign affidavits at closing stating that they have been known by no other legal names for 10 years (or to fill in the blank with their former/concurrent names).

 

I place the “Affidavit of No Other Name” in front of each client to sign, explain the search process, and then routinely ask, “Have you been known by any other legal names in the past 10 years?” (I added the “legal” modifier years back  after too many spouses shared their affectionate--and sometimes mean-- private names for each other).

 

Most clients say “no” or offer a married woman’s prior surname to the affidavit, if applicable.  The affidavit is signed and we return to the specific details of this transaction.

 

Once, a client’s response brought me up short.  “Can I see you outside for a minute?” the wife said to me when I asked her and her husband the standard “any other legal names?” question. 

 

 

 

My client and I walked into a corridor. She proceeded to tell me that before she married her present husband a few years back, there had been another marriage, another name, and a divorce within the past 10 years. However, she has never told any of this to husband number two!

 

“I don’t want to commit fraud on that affidavit,” she said, turning paler and paler.  Setting aside my reaction to a fear of committing perjury being scarier than deceiving the nice guy in the other room, I told her to stay right there. I promised to send the title closer out to notarize her signature in the hallway, and that’s what happened. 

 

I never knew if her husband questioned what went on in the hall, and I still wonder if she broke her silence to reveal that he was not her one and only.

 

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