Even with eternally vigilant title officers, strange things can happen. The following story is true.
It was the early 1990's and my San Francisco clients, a young professional couple with a baby, had given notice on their rental apartment when they were the successful bidders on the Noe Valley fixer-upper of their dreams. It was sunny, on a great block, with a large yard and lots of space inside. The Victorian charm was just waiting to be recaptured after years of ownership by a man who had become a widower in this house, and then married his wife's nurse. The house showed poorly, stuffed to the gills with old brown metal filing cabinets and lumpy old armchairs, and most buyers had turned up their noses. The sellers were anxious to relocate "to the country," they said. Once in a while I thought I detected a note of hesitation on the part of the man, who loved his house and his old neighborhood. The wife seemed nervous and was often abrupt with anyone who came by, although she became gleeful when describing how she planned to sue McDonald's over being scalded with hot coffee. (Yes, I know, I thought that had already been done, too...) Well, on the day that my excited buyers were supposed to move in (picture a moving van full of their furniture waiting outside the house and their baby sleeping in the back of their car as they approach the van), I got a call.
The title company had not allowed the sale to go through that morning, because the husband's son had suddenly appeared in their office from Canada, claiming that the whole deal was invalid. He had disappeared up North to avoid being drafted during the war in Vietnam and had not been heard of since, but now he claimed not only an interest in the property, but that his new stepmother had been responsible for his real mother's premature demise, and that his stepmother was planning to lure his father into a remote rural location -and kill him, too!
A real showstopper, if ever there was one.
Hmmmm. What to do? (Don't you just hate it when this happens?) This was a Friday. Apparently, the title company was able to pull some strings and get a judge to hear the case on VERY short notice (because of the hardship situation of the family with a baby and nowhere to go) and she allowed the transaction to proceed, the transfer of title to go through, and my clients to move in. A happy ending to a problem nobody could possibly have foreseen....maybe.
Let's not even dwell on my first mind-boggling reaction: some part of me actually believed the son had it right! Now it all made a weird kind of sense: the father had never shown any enthusiasm for the move to the country, and I had always gotten unsettling vibes from the "nurse". But it was all out of my hands from the point when the judge made her decision. I had done my "job".
MORAL: You tell me, please. I am open to all suggestions. (I still dream about this one.)
Aha! On 9/04/08 it finally came to me:
When the son's away, a nurse may prey.