Graphic with Jeff Stein's picture congratulating him on his promotion to Senior Vice President and Chief Underwriting Counsel for Alliant National

Alliant National Announces the Promotion of Jeff Stein to Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President

Longmont, Colo. – (March 9, 2021) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, announces the promotion of Jeff Stein to the position of Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President.

Jeff is a highly skilled attorney who has been representing individuals and organizations in the real estate field for more than 40 years. He has extensive experience in title insurance and real estate litigation, as well as claims, underwriting, contracts and estate planning. Jeff is board certified in real estate law by the Florida Bar and is a Florida civil law notary.

In his new role with Alliant National, Jeff will continue leading the company’s legal team in Florida and the Southeast, while also supporting the entirety of Alliant National’s underwriting operations throughout the country.

“I am excited to have been given the opportunity to work with our entire legal team,” says Stein. “I look forward to continuing and expanding the amazing partnership that exists between our agents and Alliant National on a national basis.”

Jeff will collaborate with leadership to help maintain Alliant National’s position as the premier independent underwriter for the independent agent. Lastly, he will take an active role supporting the ongoing education of both Alliant National’s agents and employees.

“Jeff has always been an integral part of our Alliant National legal team,” says Margaret Cook, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer. “He brings his deep understanding of the industry, vast knowledge of real estate law, natural leadership ability and affinity for relationship building to this new role. Jeff’s experience and skill set will enhance Alliant National’s underwriting capabilities as we continue to expand and partner with independent agents across the country.”

“Our underwriters are a key part of what makes Alliant National a great organization,” says David Sinclair, President and CEO of Alliant National. “Having a legal professional of Jeff’s caliber in this critical leadership position will be hugely beneficial for Alliant National’s continued success.”

Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

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Cathie Beck
303.241.0805
cathie@capitalcitypr.com


About Alliant National Title Insurance Company
The Independent Underwriter for The Independent Agentsm – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive. The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

White background graphic with blue-lined house bearing a sign that read's "SOLD(almost)". Above the house are 3 circles. The left circle is bright green with a sign that reads part 1. The middle circle is faded pink with a sign that reads part 2. The right circle is faded yellow with a sign that reads part 3.

Common Closing Issues – Part I

Agents should prepare themselves to handle these routine scenarios.

Real estate closings require a delicate balancing act. Not only is speed of the essence, but closings also require accuracy and professionalism. Often there is no time to correct errors, and customers need to feel confident that their transactions are being carried out correctly.

Many issues can arise during the closing process. The following is the first of a three-part series that will explore some of the most common scenarios agents need to keep in mind.

Fiduciary Responsibilities

As escrow officers, title agents have fiduciary responsibilities and must act as neutral third parties, impartial arbitrators of contractual arrangements with conditions agreed to by both the buyer and seller. Escrow officers do not make decisions regarding a transaction and do
not advocate for any one party. Instead, they ensure that written instructions are carried out properly.

Authority Issues

Within this purview, there are a variety of common issues that may arise during closings. Issues can and do vary state-to-state. In Texas, for example, one such issue is determining who has authority to act for an entity, with a pertinent example being an LLC. When dealing with this type of entity, agents will need to review operating agreements. In the absence of an agreement, a certificate of authority can be examined. These certificates are helpful when dealing with sole manager and member LLCs. 

For corporations, agents should examine bylaws and subsequent amendments, and shareholders may be required to sign an affidavit. Nonprofits and churches conduct business differently. But in each context, the agent only needs to be concerned about authority when money is being borrowed or the entity is the seller.

Another authority question is power of attorney (POA). This is also mandated by state law. In Texas, agents must accept, reject or request a certification when presented with one. In reviewing a statutory durable power of attorney (DPOA), agents need to analyze if the powers have been limited, if it is durable and review the revocation clause. It is advisable to rely on a DPOA until there is a notice of revocation. As a best practice, certification for statutory DPOA should be required. The agent should also call the principal to verify if they are alive, that the POA has not been revoked and that a POA is being used to sell property. With trusts, it is prudent to maintain a full copy, and in its absence, obtain the certification of the trustee.

Information Security

Given the sheer volume of paperwork in real estate closings, data security is important. When possible, personal customer information should be heavily redacted. And all company policies should also be adhered to when processing this information. 

Spouses and Marital Status 

First, each state has its own spousal and/or marital law that dictates how agents must address issues. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state.

In Texas – again, as one example – agents must be prepared to address transactions where only one spouse is listed in the title. Anyone with an interest in the property should be checked for involuntary liens and sign the deed. The marital status of the parties should be questioned if only one party is given as the seller, buyer or borrower.

With a married couple, both spouses must sign a deed of trust. If an agent is insuring a purchase money lien and one spouse is taking the title, an agent may accept a deed of trust signed only by the purchaser. The warranty deed is also required to include the vendor’s lien language. If the property belongs to one spouse while the other spouse lives in another property, one signature can be accepted and a Homestead Designation and Disclaimer will be executed.

In a sales transaction, agents should investigate the possible homestead character of the property, inquiring if there is an exemption and if the property address is the mailing address of the individual(s). The residency of the individuals should also be established. Sometimes a deed will be accepted signed solely by the spouse in the title, especially if permission is received by underwriting beforehand. It is necessary, though, to discern that the property to be insured is the separate property of one spouse and not the other spouse’s home, and a Homestead Designation and Disclaimer will need to be executed. 

When dealing with spouses, it is always important to compare the sellers and buyers on the contract with the grantors and grantees on the deed – and to resolve differences. Some examples are:

  • The contract shows the buyer to be Joe Smith, but the grantees on the deed are Joe and Mary Smith. 
  • The title is vested in and signed by Fred Farmer. The deed of trust is signed by “Fred Farmer and Susan Farmer pro forma to perfect the lien as to her homestead interest only.”
  • The title is vested in Harry Jones, but the note and deed of trust are signed by “Harry Jones and Cindy Jones.”

In the first example, the contract should be amended to add Mary Smith if she plans to take title. The case of Fred and Susan Farmer would be acceptable if there is evidence on file that the property is Fred’s separate property – either acquired before his marriage to Susan or inherited. Lastly, there is not much to worry about regarding Harry and Cindy, as this is a preferable way to handle the situation.

Conclusion

Numerous issues can pop up during closings, from entity authority to navigating transactions involving spouses. Agents can do a lot to circumvent any thorny problems. It starts with understanding the most common scenarios that arise during the closing process and then being prepared to take prompt and deliberate action. The next part of this series will continue to explore various challenges agents may face during closings, covering items such as funding and family transactions.

Welcome Mara Alyson, Florida Underwriting Counsel for Alliant National

Announcing new Underwriting Counsel in Florida

Longmont, Colo. – (February 25, 2021) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, announces the hiring of Mara Alyson, Underwriting Counsel Florida.

Alyson is a highly skilled attorney with over 20 years of experience in title insurance, transactional and real estate litigation. She began her career practicing criminal prosecution before moving into real estate law. Working for several law firms, in addition to a regional title insurance underwriter, Alyson gained extensive expertise in underwriting both commercial and residential real estate transactions, closings and contract negotiations. She is also well versed in business development and title curative, and in fostering positive, long-term client relationships.

“I care deeply about the underwriting process, as well as supporting independent agents and protecting the interests of those involved in any given transaction,” said Alyson. “Joining the Alliant National team is an incredible opportunity to work for a deeply committed group of title insurance professionals, and I’m looking forward to many happy years here.”

Alyson’s past professional experiences will serve her well in her new role. She will be responsible for advising on underwriting decisions, drafting guidelines for examination and underwriting, and analyzing risk in title transactions.

“Mara is a seasoned legal professional who has an incredible grasp of all aspects of the title industry – from abstracting and examining to closings and underwriting. There is no doubt that she will be an exceptional addition to our team and operations, or that her diverse expertise will allow Alliant National to be an even more powerful force in the title insurance field,” said Brenda J. Cannon, Regional Counsel Florida and Senior Vice President.

Mara Alyson graduated with honors from Florida Atlantic University. She earned her JD from Nova South Eastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center. Mara is a member of the Florida Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District.

Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Cathie Beck
Capital City Public Relation
e : cathie@capitalcitypr.com
p : 303-241-0805

ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

The Independent Underwriter for The Independent AgentSM – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive.

The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Alliant National Academy logo being revealed by owl

Announcing the Launch of a New Learning Platform

Alliant National Academy takes company’s educational offerings to the next level

Longmont, Colo. – (February 16, 2021) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, announces the launch of Alliant National Academy, an online portal that pairs the company’s in-depth content and expert instructors with industry-leading education technology to provide an all-new learning experience.

Alliant National Academy is a convenient way for Alliant National agents to access the company’s catalog of live-st ream and on-demand webinars, many of which are approved for continuing education (CE) credit. CE courses are currently available to Alliant National agents in Texas, Florida and Alabama, with additional states coming soon.

Access to the system is also free of charge for Alliant National agents.

“Every agent’s education needs are different, and Alliant National has built a reputation for delivering customized solutions to meet those needs,” says Alliant National President and CEO David Sinclair. “Alliant National Academy is a new standard for online learning in our industry, and we’re excited to make this powerful tool available to our agents and their teams.”

Alliant National Academy enhances the educational experience before, during and after the course. Specific features of Alliant National Academy include:

One-click course registration after completing initial registration.

Improved course player that allows for pausing and completion of on-demand courses at the agent’s convenience.

Streamlined, all-in-one course completion system that easily provides the necessary verifications to obtain credit. No need to download, unlock and email required forms.

The ability to track course progress from a customizable personal dashboard.

Downloadable certificates of course completion that can be viewed and printed at any time.

Transcripts detailing all completed courses.

Learn more about the features of Alliant National Academy

Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Cathie Beck
Capital City Public Relation
e : cathie@capitalcitypr.com
p : 303-241-0805

ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

The Independent Underwriter for The Independent AgentSM – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive.

The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with annual revenues exceeding $126 million.

Magnifying lens examining computer bug with network circuit stock illustration

What is Malware?

What exactly is malware, and how can you safeguard against it?

You’ve heard the term. You’ve seen the warnings. You may have even been unlucky enough to experience an attack. But what exactly is malware, and what can you do to safeguard against it?

Malware: A Catch-All Term

Malware is an umbrella term for any type of malicious software. This can include anything from computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses (a malicious piece of software disguised as a legitimate program) to ransomware, spyware, adware or scareware.

Typically, anything that secretly works against the interests of a computer user can be classified as malware. Malware can infect almost any type of computer or digital device. Some but not all machines that are vulnerable to malware include: Windows computers, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and network servers. Viruses and worms are the most common types of malware, and both are spread by becoming embedded in executable software.

Why it Matters  

Malware is used by hackers to gain access and pilfer the personal, financial, business or governmental data of unsuspecting individuals or organizations. Once this information is acquired, cybercriminals frequently seek to exhort money from their victims – either directly through ransoms (where the criminal blocks access to files or programs until the victim pays them money) or by engaging in identity theft.

Recent studies indicate that cybercrime is on the rise. A 2019 report revealed a 67 percent increase in security breaches over the past five years.[i] The cost of these attacks is truly staggering. According to the White House, “malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016.”[ii] The average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million according to IBM.[iii] While it may be tempting to think that only large multinationals are the targets of these attacks, 43 percent of breach victims were small or medium-sized businesses.[iv]

What Can be Done?

As with other industries, identity theft, fraud and other crimes are increasing throughout the insurance and financial services sectors. Still, there are numerous actions you can take to better safeguard your data.

A great first step is to purchase high-quality anti-virus software and install it across your devices. It is essential to purchase one from a well-known and trusted provider, and to have it consistently run scans on any machine that may be vulnerable.

You should diligently update both your operating systems (Mac/IOS, Windows, Android, etc.) and internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge). Not only do these updates patch security holes, but they also better protect your data and offer enhanced features that can make your work life easier and more enjoyable.  

When safeguarding your devices through the previous steps, it is always a good idea to back up your data and store it on an external hard drive where it will be retrievable in the future. By taking this precaution, you will ensure that you do not lose access to your most valuable data even if you are unlucky enough to experience a malware attack and have to consult a professional to repair your device.

Avoiding Phishing Scams and Ensuring Safe Title Transactions

One of the most common threats that occur during real estate transactions is a phishing scam, where criminals seek to gain access to nonpublic personal information (NPI), place malicious code on your device or convince you to change wiring instructions. To protect yourself from these scams, agents should be mindful of the following warning signs within a suspicious email:

  • Poor spelling, grammar and generic greetings
  • Requests for personal information
  • An unusual sense of urgency
  • Instructions to change wiring information
  • Questionable-looking attachments or links that encourage a click.

Additionally, agents can reduce risk by transmitting data through encryption, using two-factor email authentications, maintaining a contact log for all transaction participants, eliminating the need for urgency and performing a risk assessment to identify security gaps.

Commit to Safety

Considering the fiduciary responsibilities that title agents possess, data security is of the utmost importance. Of course, no system is foolproof, but by knowing the risks and taking necessary precautions, agents can make significant progress toward protecting the integrity of their clients’ transactions.


[i] https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/security/cost-cybercrime-study

[ii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/The-Cost-of-Malicious-Cyber-Activity-to-the-U.S.-Economy.pdf

[iii] https://www.cyber-observer.com/cyber-news-29-statistics-for-2020-cyber-observer/

[iv] Ibid

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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