Who owns a property is public record in Illinois

Q: I will be purchasing a property within the next few weeks and would like to keep my ownership from becoming public knowledge. A friend suggested that after I purchase the property, I could convey the property into a land trust. He says if someone searches for the ownership of the property, the land trust will show as the owner, not me.

Does this sound to you like the best way to handle this? Is there a better way?

A: Your friend is correct that by taking his advice, a search of the county records will disclose the owner of the property to be the land trust. The problem, however, is that a search of the county records reveals more than the current owner of the property.

The search will indicate the chain of title as far back as that county's computer records go. So, the transaction conveying the property into the land trust and the prior transaction where you took title to the property individually will both disclose your name. So much for keeping your ownership private.

The way to handle this and accomplish your goal is to create the land trust prior to the closing. Then, you or your attorney directs the seller to convey the property directly into the land trust. Your name would not appear anywhere but in the land trust agreement, which is a private agreement between you and the land trust company and is not recorded.

Also, please note, the last time I checked, only six states allowed a party to hold property in a land trust. Illinois is one of those states.

Q: My mother will be selling her property soon but she is in a nursing home and not doing very well. She is in pretty good shape mentally but I'm not sure how long that will last. Is there any action I can take now that would make selling her home easier down the road?

A: There's a couple options. Easiest would be to have her execute a Power of Attorney, giving you or another party she chooses the power to act on her behalf. She must be mentally competent to legally execute a Power of Attorney, so if you believe her current mental state may not last, now is the time to act.

Once the Power of Attorney is properly executed, you or whoever she designates will have the power to act on mom's behalf regarding any of the specific powers (bank accounts, real estate, etc.) provided in the Power of Attorney.

Depending on other assets mom may or may not own, creating a living trust may be something to consider. The idea here is mom conveys her assets, including her home, into the trust and mom or a designated trustee has control over the trust assets. This option may make more sense if there are other assets to be considered.

I would suggest speaking to an attorney familiar with estate planning to fully explore your options.

Q: I am getting ready to sell my home but because of some unfortunate setbacks, I have not paid my 2021 real estate taxes. I have received some notices in the mail about this but I have not been able to deal with this. Will I be able to sell my home with my tax situation?

A: Most likely, yes. Please stop worrying and immediately contact a real estate attorney to evaluate your situation. It is likely you will be able to sell the property and simply pay off your tax obligation from your closing proceeds.

It is important, though, that you speak to someone immediately as a property owner can actually lose ownership of his or her property if the real estate taxes go unpaid for too long a period of time.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 910 E. Oak St., Lake in the Hills, IL 60156, by email to or call (847) 359-8983.

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