Establishment of the Register of Deeds
The Office of the Register of Deeds was established in Wisconsin in 1836. Before that, the Register in Probate handled land registration. The 1848 Wisconsin Constitution established the Register of Deeds as a permanent element of the county-level government structure, and each county has a Register of Deeds.
The Register of Deeds files, records, and issues instruments and documents of significance to both the community as a whole, and to its individual citizens. Vital records document the span of our lives from birth to death. Land records documenting title to over $223 billion* in real property in Wisconsin are maintained. Each year many millions of dollars in transactions, under the Uniform Commercial Code, are represented in documents filed to record the interests and obligation of the parties in such commercial transactions.
The filing or recording of various legal documents with the Register of Deeds is a way of putting the world on notice that something important has happened or will happen. The time of the transaction is often an important element in rights and relationships. The Register of Deeds records the time when, in effect, the public record is established. In legal terms, this important function is described as providing constructive notice for all the world to see the rights and interests that people have in real and personal property, as well as notice regarding births, deaths, and marriages which occurred within the County.
Providing constructive notice regarding real estate allows the act of searching the records and the determination of clear title. This is necessary for the issuance of most home mortgages, business loans, and the sale of real estate. The entire massive database of recorded documents and other documents, such as plats and certified survey maps, stored and available for public view, provide accurate descriptions of property, and avoids wasteful court battles over boundaries and rights.
Local government property tax rolls are derived from documents recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds. The business community and consumers are served through Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. Consumer and farm loans are made simpler, more secure, less expensive, and more widely available to the mutual benefit of those involved in the use of credit involving personal property, crops, and/or fixtures.
According to an Attorney General opinion, the Register of Deeds is responsible for reading the law and judging whether the law requires the Register to perform a duty. Judgments have to be made by the Register of Deeds as to whether documents presented may be recorded according to statutory criteria.
*1997 equalized value of real property, Wisconsin Department of Revenue.