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Banks Quiet Title Story

In May, 2018, Al Banks reached out to Pinnola & Bomstein to help him recover title to his family’s property from a series of crooks. Al himself had brought suit without the benefit of an attorney and had come up against a brick wall.

At the time, Al was a retired systems analyst who had grown up in Philadelphia as one of five children. Their parents had bought an investment property along with family friends and the Banks and Hunt families shared the monthly income.

When Al’s father died the family’s half interest in the property was passed on to his mother, Kate. After his mother died, the five siblings assumed the family’s interest in the property would simply be passed on to them. They were wrong.

On August 23, 2013 - seven months after Al was appointed administrator of Kate Banks’s estate – a man named Jim Battle recorded a deed in the City’s Department of Records.

The new deed stated that the family property was being transferred from himself, as sole heir of Kate Banks, to himself individually as grantee. Jim Battle, however, was not an heir of Mrs. Banks’s. He was not even a remote relative. Jim was one of a new kind of scam artist.

Throughout the City are many vacant homes and commercial properties. A little research easily enables a diligent crook to learn that the owner of an empty building has died.

At that point the crook may recruit an enterprising notary public to assist in creating a new conveyance. Oftentimes the new deed is signed by the crook in the name of the dead owner and the signature may not even bear any resemblance to the actual owner’s signature.

The notary takes a fee, the new deed is officially recorded and title now appears in whatever name has been selected. Sometimes the property is “flipped” to an unsuspecting buyer for a quick profit. Sometimes the property is renovated and re-sold for a very substantial profit.

Jim Battle took the Banks family’s title by signing a document falsely representing that he was Kate Banks’s sole heir. A crooked notary then acknowledged his signature.

Battle quickly sold the property to a small-time real estate speculator for $ 5,000. It was a bargain for the speculator since the property had been assessed by the City at $ 53,000.

The speculator, in turn, sold it to another fishy character for $ 10,000. And there title remained for several years until, in 2017, Al Banks learned that title had changed three times since his mother had died!

Attorney Mike Bomstein filed a quiet title action in May, 2018 on behalf of the Banks heirs. Joined as defendants were Jim Battle, the speculator and the fishy character.

The matter was hard-fought all around. The speculator insisted he had no idea that there was anything suspect about paying $ 5,000 for a $ 53,000 property. Further, he contended that he did not re-sell the property to the fishy character.

For his part, the fishy character claimed that he was a relative of the Hunt family. He also stated that he truly had paid $ 10,000 to the speculator and was hoping to keep the property in the family.

The case went to trial in June, 2021. At the time of trial, Mike Bomstein argued that when Kate Banks died her property passed to her estate. Within weeks after her death her son Al Banks was appointed administrator.

From that time on, only Al had the authority to dispose of estate property, including the real estate that was the subject of the case. The transfer to Jim Battle, then, was fraudulent because (a) Jim not an heir, let alone the sole heir of Kate Banks; and (b) only Al had authority to sign the deed.

As a matter of law, the Battle deed was void from the start because Mr. Battle lacked the legal capacity to make the transfer. The consequence of that was that the deed to the speculator and the later deed to the fishy character were also deemed void.

The trial judge ruled in favor of the Banks estate and issued an opinion explaining his decision. The speculator was unhappy with the outcome of the case and filed an appeal. Both sides submitted briefs to the appeals court and that court’s decision has yet to come.

Stay tuned to the Pinnola & Bomstein website for the end of this story!

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