Common Terms


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – The process of establishing the fact that each signature on an instrument is genuine. An acknowledgement is a type of authentication most often performed by a notary public.

AFFIDAVIT – A sworn statement in writing made under oath or on affirmation before an authorized official.

ASSIGNMENT – A document, which transfers a loan or debt to another, which gives them the right to collect the outstanding balance owed on the debt.

ASSUMED NAME – A document that files or puts on record a business names of an individual, partnership, or corporation other than their own name. (This is also known as “doing business as” or “dba”)

CANCELLATION – A process by which the holder of an indebtedness on real estate removes or erases from record the indebtedness.

CERTIFIED COPY – A copy of a document that has the official seal of the office affixed upon it along with the signature of the Register of Deeds or one of his appointees, which certifies that the document is a true copy of the document on file in the Register of Deeds office.

CHAIN OF TITLE – The succession of conveyances, from some accepted starting point, whereby the present holder of real property derives his or her title.

CONSIDERATION – That which is received by the grantor in exchange for his or her deed.

COVENANT – A written agreement between two or more parties, in which lists or gives stipulation on how the real estate may be used or what may be built or put on the property. These are also commonly refereed to as restrictive covenants.

DEED – A written instrument that, when executed and delivered, conveys or transfers title to or an interest in real estate.

DEED OF RELEASE – A conveyance that is usually issued once a deed of trust, mortgage or other type of debt, previously secured against the property, has been paid in full. After the deed of release is written, the property is owned free and clear by the owner, and any previous claims against the property that the lender may have had are dissolved. It is commonly used to release part of the property or collateral from a Deed of Trust so that it may be sold or developed.

DEED OF TRUST – It is a written conveyance of real property that represents the security for the payment of a debt or the performance of some duty or obligation, all of which shall become void upon payment of the debt or obligation. This is a three party document: the borrower, the beneficiary, and the trustee or trustees who hold(s) the legal title or control of the property. Deeds of Trust are typically used in North Carolina in lieu of mortgages.

EASEMENT – A document in which the owner of property grants another the right to cross or otherwise use their land for a specific purpose. This is most commonly used to give a person access to their property by crossing another’s property and to grant a utilities the right to use and access specific areas of another’s property for laying gas, electric, water, and/or sewer lines.

FILE – The act of physically placing a document in the custody of the Register of Deeds for recording by delivering the document in proper form. The document(s), which are accepted by the Register, are time stamped, assigned a unique book and page number, indexed, and then become an official public record.

FINANCING STATEMENT – An instrument filed with the Register of Dees in order to give notice of a security agreement regarding personal property. See also: Uniform Commercial Code.

FORECLOSURE – A legal proceeding to terminate a grantor’s interest in property, instituted by the lender/beneficiary either to gain title or to force a sale in order to satisfy the unpaid debt secured by the property.

GIFT DEED – A deed that is executed and delivered in which the grantor transfers title to the grantee without any payment or considerations.

GRANTEE – The person or entity who receives title or interest in real property from another.

GRANTOR – The person or entity transferring title to or an interest in real property to another.

INDEXING – To provide a system for all recorded and filed documents, which indicates where they can be found. The Duplin County Register of Deeds Office uses the book and page system for indexing.

INSTRUMENT – A written legal document, which defines rights, duties, entitlements, or liabilities. Instruments often related to real estate include various types of deeds, contracts, agreements, and wills.

LEASE – An agreement between two parties (grantor and grantee) where one contracts with the other to rent, use, or possess, for a specified amount and period of time, land, buildings, personal property, etc.

LEGAL DESCRIPTION – A description of a specific parcel of real estate complete enough for an independent licensed surveyor to locate and identify it. Descriptions can be made by reference to a government survey, metes and bounds, or lot numbers of a recorded plat.

METES-AND-BOUNDS DESCRIPTION – A legal description of a parcel of land that begins at a well marked point, and follows the boundaries, using directions, distances and angles from designated landmarks around the tract back to the place of beginning.

MODIFICATION – A document that alters, adds, or cancels some of the terms or stipulations but leaves the general purposes or effect of the document intact.

MORTGAGE – A pledge of real estate as security for the payment of debt. Also the document creating a mortgage. In North Carolina, deeds of trust are typically used instead of mortgages to secure real estate as security for the payment of a debt.

MORTGAGEE – A lender in a mortgage loan transaction. The mortgagee receives the mortgage document and keeps it until the loan is satisfied.

MORTGAGOR – A borrower who uses his or her property as security for a loan.

NOTE – A written promise by one party to pay money to another party or to the bearer.

PARCEL – A specific tract of real estate defined by a legal description and used for taxing purposes, among others.

PARTNERSHIP – A voluntary association of two or more persons who jointly own and carry on a business for profit.

PERSONAL PROPERTY – Any movable or intangible thing that is subject to ownership and not classified as real property.

PLAT – A map of a town, section, or subdivision indicating the location and boundaries of individual properties.

POWER OF ATTORNEY – A written instrument authorizing a person to act as agent on behalf of another person which may or may not be limited to stipulations as set out in the instrument.

QUITCLAIM DEED – A deed, which is used to obtain a release from a person who is believed to have some interest in or claim to property. The grantor “quits” any claim he/she may have had without warranties or obligations.

REAL ESTATE – Land, including all things permanently attached thereto, whether by nature or by a person.

RECORDING – The act of entering or registering documents affecting or conveying interests in real estate in the Register of Deeds Office. Documents are recorded to enable the owner of an interest in property to give public notice of that ownership.

REVOCATION OF POWER OF ATTORNEY – A document, which removes or takes away the authority of a Power of Attorney.

SATISFACTION – A document acknowledging the payment of a debt which terminates the effectiveness of a security instrument such as a mortgage or deed of trust.

SUBDIVISION – A tract of land divided by the owner into blocks, building lots, and streets according to a rerecorded subdivision plat, which must comply with state regulations and the local subdivision ordinance.

SUBORDINATION AGREEMENT– A legal document used to make the claim of one party junior to or inferior to a claim in favor of another. It is generally used to grant first lien status to a lienholder who would otherwise be secondary to another party, with the approval of the party that would otherwise have first lien.

SUBSTITUITION OF TRUSTEE – A document through which the beneficiary, owner, or holder of the note replaces or appoints a new trustee on a Deed of Trust.

SURVEY – The process by which boundaries are measured and land areas are determined; performed by a licensed land surveyor.

TITLE – A legal action or document that justifies or substantiates ownership of property.

UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE – A codification of commercial law, adopted in most states, that attempts to make uniform all laws relating to commercial transaction. In North Carolina, UCC’s are defined under Chapter 25, Article 9 of the NC General Statutes to provide a method of giving notice of a security interest in personal property to interested third parties. In order to give public notice of the security interest, a financing statement must be recorded.

VITAL RECORDS – According to NC Administrative Code vital records mean birth, death, fetal death, marriage, divorce, and data related thereto; NOTE: Divorces are filed in the Clerk of Court’s Office and not in the Office of the Register of Deeds.

WARRANTY DEED – A deed in which the grantor fully warrants good and clear title, and guarantees that his predecessors have no interest in the title.