Torrens vs. Abstract Title

In Minnesota, your land is either torrens or abstract title.  Torrens or registered title is identified on your deed by having a T before the document number and often the deed will reference Torrens specifically.  If your land is Torrens, your land was officially registered through a court proceeding where all your neighbors were served and the Court confirmed that you, or your predecessor in title, owned the land free and clear of all liens, easements or other title issues other than as stated on the Certificate of Title on file with the Registrar of Titles.

The benefits of Torrens title are that you can quickly review this Certificate of Title and know the status of your title.  Having your title registered also helps prevent adverse claims from your neighbors for any encroachments or easements.  On the other hand, if you have Torrens property, there can be additional and sometimes substantial costs to transfer title if owners divorce, have land in trust, go through foreclosure or tax forfeiture and several other title issues.  Because of these potential costs, its always good to understand the status of the title before you buy or sell Torrens land.

If your land is not Torrens, it is abstract land.  The majority of parcels in this area are abstract land.  With this type of title, you really can’t confirm if you have good title without working with a title company to review all transfers that have been filed against your land throughout history.  Even after that review, there are title standards and judgments made regarding whether one can ignore various issues that may have clouded the title over the years.  As a result, good or marketable title is not always black and white and some title companies may insure title where others would raise an objection before allowing a closing to occur.

In addition, recorded documents don’t tell the whole story.  If a physical inspection reveals a driveway on your property, for example, this could be a potential title problem even though no one has a recorded easement for this driveway.  Unlike Torrens title, with abstract title neighbors can assert they have rights to your property by adverse possession.  This means that they can ask the court for an easement or full title to part of your land if they have been using it for more than 15 years.  This proves that you should always know the lot lines before buying a property and confirming that within those lot lines you don’t have any driveways or structures that could possibly lead to an adverse possession claim.

Whether your land is Torrens or Abstract won’t change several other things you should always know before buying or selling.  These things being are there any unpaid assessments or utility bills, real estate taxes paid up to date, zoning rules and of course just the physical condition of any structure on your property.  The abstract or certificate of title won’t address those issues so you need to make further inquiries so you have no surprises after closing.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.