The exact rules for the closing, or settlement, process of a home sale vary from state to state. In some states, an attorney needs to be present at the closing. In Georgia, an attorney needs to not only be present, but also must “be in control of the closing process from beginning to end” according to the State Bar of Georgia. The attorney plays a variety of roles in the closing process.
What a Closing Attorney Does
According to the State Bar of Georgia, a closing attorney has several responsibilities during the settlement. He or she can’t simply observe the proceedings or act as a witness. Instead, the attorney needs to:
- Review all paperwork and documents and correct any errors in the paperwork
- Resolve any ambiguities or errors in the title
- “Act with competence”
The attorney doesn’t need to prepare the documents or paperwork presented at the closing him or herself. But an attorney who agrees to oversee the settlement or closing process needs to be sure to review all the paperwork presented and needs to be willing to adopt that paperwork as his or her own.
Closing Attorneys and Title Insurance
The closing attorney also prepares and offers title insurance to the lender and buyer. In Georgia, the lender automatically purchases title insurance during the settlement, as it wishes to protect its interests in case any problems come up with the title to the house (such as a lien or contested ownership). In some states, the seller needs to provide title insurance to the buyer, but that’s not the case in Georgia. For that reason, the Atlanta Journal Constitution recommends that buyers purchase title insurance at closing. The policy costs less at closing and will protect you for as long as you own the home.
Do You Need to Hire Your Own Lawyer?
Do you need to hire your own lawyer since an attorney is already going to be at the closing? Having an attorney who is looking out for your interests as the buyer can be helpful to you. For example, although the closing attorney will review all the documents associated with the sale and with the mortgage, the attorney represents the lender when a mortgage is involved. That means that he or she is working in the best interests of the mortgage lender. These interests might not be your best interests. At the very least, it can be useful to hire a lawyer to review the sales contract and other documents before you head into closing.
Although you don’t legally need to bring along your own lawyer to closing, having a person who is familiar with the process and who can provide guidance and advice to help you through can be worth the added expense.