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Deed Reformation, Mutual Mistake: Real Estate

To reform a deed means to correct an error. This is separate from filing a correction deed in that it is a formal request to a court for equitable relief.  Although a reformation can be granted in a variety of circumstances, the most common is when there is a mutual mistake (one that is common to both parties), rather than a unilateral mistake.

To properly plead a reformation claim on the basis of mutual mistake, one must allege (1) a preexisting agreement between the parties affected by the proposed reformation that is consistent with the change sought, (2) that the mistake was made in that the deed was prepared other than had been agreed upon, and (3) that the mistake was common to both parties. Wates v. Jorger, 907 S.W.2d 294, 296 (Mo. Ct. App. 1995). In Wates, the litigants requested that the Court reform the deed to where the grantees (i.e., the people receiving the real estate) received the property as joint tenants, rather than as tenants in common.

Although reformation may seem easily applicable on its face if the facts are right, Missouri courts are reluctant to use it. “Reformation of a written instrument is an extraordinary equitable remedy and should be granted with great caution and only in clear cases of fraud or mistake.” Ethridge v. Tierone Bank, 226 S.W.3d 127, 132 (Mo. 2007).

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