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AGO Opinions with Topic: BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS
AGO 1996 No. 12 >  July 31, 1996
COUNTIES - COUNTY AUDITOR - COUNTY TREASURER - RECORDING DOCUMENTS - TRUSTS - BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS - TAXATION
Duty of county auditors and treasurers to record documents 1.  Under current Washington case law, a county auditor or similar recording officer has a ministerial duty to record a document purporting on its face to affect title to real estate located within the jurisdiction, if the document is presented for recording and the appropriate fee is tendered. 2.  “Non-statutory abatements" are not documents purporting to affect title to real property, and county officers have no duty to record such documents. 3.  A county auditor or similar officer lacks authority to decline to record a document presented for recording, and otherwise qualifying to be recorded, based on doubt that the entity purporting to record the document has been lawfully created or constituted. 4.  County auditors and recording officers have no duty to record documents purporting to establish "trusts;" such documents are not among those listed in statute as recordable. 5.  Conveyance of real estate to a "Massachusetts trust" or other "business trust"  does not affect the property tax liability for the real estate. 6.  Conveyance of real estate to a private trust, in which the grantors and their family members or other designees are among the beneficiaries of the trust, does not affect the property tax liability for the real estate. 7.  Where the owners of real estate transfer title to a trust or business organization without any change in the beneficial ownership of the property, the transfer is not a "sale" as defined in RCW 82.45.010 and is exempt from excise tax. 8.  A county auditor or similar officer is prohibited from recording real estate transfer documents until the County Treasurer has affixed a stamp reflecting either that the taxes have been paid or that none are due. 9.  A county treasurer or other officer has no authority to require that documents offered for recording be first submitted to the Prosecuting Attorney, the Department of Revenue, or the Attorney General's Office for review and comment, except that a county officer has a reasonable time to consult with the Prosecuting Attorney for advice concerning his or her duties.
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