(j) In the case of real property, a copy of the property tax bill for the year preceding the year of the decedent's death and a legal description of the property, which description shall be imprinted on or attached to the application. The register of deeds shall record the bill.
(k) In the case of a joint tenancy or life estate, a copy of the deed that creates the interest.
(2) The register of deeds or other person authorized under s. 706.06 or 706.07 shall complete a statement at the foot of the application, declaring that the surviving joint tenant or remainderman appeared before him or her and verified, under oath, the correctness of the information required by sub. (1).
. . . .
(4) Upon the recording, the application shall be presumed to be evidence of the facts recited and shall terminate the joint tenancy or life estate . . . .
The statute requires no remainderperson's signature on the form known as HT-110. Rather, the statute provides that the remainderperson appear before the register of deeds and verify, under oath, the correctness of the information required under section 867.045(1). Therefore, it is my opinion that, upon verification, the properly completed form may be recorded without the appearances of all remainderpersons before the register of deeds, and without the signatures of all remainderpersons, where there is more than one remainderperson.
You have commented that the practice of registers of deeds varies from county to county with respect to the signature requirements of Form HT-110. This varied practice may have its origins in the requirements of a previous version of Form HT-110 showing a revision date of March 1977. The 1977 version of the form expressly required the signatures of all joint tenants. The Department of Revenue ("DOR") drafted this earlier version, pursuant to its statutory duty to prepare and furnish such forms to registers of deeds (see sec. 867.045(5), Stats. (1989-90)) prior to the amendment to section 867.045, that became effective on April 10, 1992 (1991 Wisconsin Act 133). The earlier requirement that all tenants sign the DOR-drafted form stemmed from DOR's desire to provide joint tenants with notice that tax consequences might ensue from such transfer at that time.
Inheritance tax is no longer employed in Wisconsin. Under current estate tax law, individual notification of such transfers is not a concern. The drafting notes of 1991 Wisconsin Act 133 include analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, which states, in relevant part:
Under current law, there are several ways to terminate a joint tenancy or life tenancy upon the death of a person who holds an interest in the property that is held in that form. The department of revenue has distributed forms for that purpose but, because of the repeal of the inheritance tax, the department will discontinue that practice. Under this bill, the registers of deeds will assume responsibility for the form.
1991 Senate Bill 342. The version of Form HT-110 in use today, showing a revision date of November 1996, was prepared by the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association and nowhere states that all persons receiving property thereunder must sign the application.
That the signatures of all remainderpersons, and that the appearances of all remainderpersons before the register of deeds are not required for proper completion of Form HT-110 pursuant to section 867.045, may be further supported by reference to the language of related statute section 867.046. Current Form HT-110 expressly may be used either to perfect the record as to the termination of a decedent's interest as a joint tenant or life tenant in any real property under section 867.045, or to perfect the record as to the termination of a decedent's interest in any real property, including an interest in survivorship marital property, under section 867.046.
Interrelated statutes must be construed to produce harmonious results. Under sec. 867.046(2), Stats., "the decedent's spouse or a beneficiary of a marital property agreement may obtain evidence of the termination of that interest of the decedent and confirmation of the petitioner's interest in the property" by providing specified documents as well as information on an application supplied by the register of deeds. Thus, where section 867.046 provides that a beneficiary may use the application procedure provided in section 867.046(2), to perfect the record as to the termination of a decedent's property interest, it follows that not all such beneficiaries receiving property under section 867.046 need appear before the register of deeds to verify the information required for completion of the form, and sign Form HT-110.
Hence, in order to harmonize sections 867.045 and 867.046, it must be concluded that all remainderpersons who receive property under section 867.045 likewise need not appear before the register of deeds to verify the required information, and sign Form HT-110, before the form may be recorded.
James E. Doyle
Ashland County Corporation Counsel requests opinion clarifying the number of signatures required on Wisconsin Register of Deeds' "Termination of Decedent's Property Interest" form which is used upon death of a joint tenant in property, savings/checking accounts, securities to surviving joint tenants.