New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law § 1931. Discharge of record of ancient mortgages presumed paid
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1. The mortgagor, his heirs or any person having any interest in any lands described in any mortgage of real estate in this state, which is recorded in this state, or mentioned in a deed recorded in this state, and which, from the lapse of time, is presumed to be paid, or in any moneys into which said lands have been converted under a decree of a court of competent jurisdiction, and which are held in place of such lands to answer such mortgage, may present his petition together with an official search of the recording officer in whose office the mortgage is recorded, or a search prepared by a person duly licensed and admitted to practice law in this state or by a title company duly incorporated and authorized to transact business in this state showing assignments of record, if any, to the courts mentioned in this article, asking that such mortgage may be discharged of record.
2. Such petition shall be verified; it shall describe the mortgage, and when and where recorded, or if such mortgage is not recorded that the same may be adjudged to have been paid and to be no longer a lien upon the lands therein described, and shall allege that such mortgage is paid; that the mortgagee has, or, if there be more than one mortgagee, that all of them have been dead for more than five years; or if such mortgage has been assigned by an instrument in writing for that purpose executed and acknowledged, so as to entitle the same to be recorded, and such instrument of assignment has been recorded in the office of the clerk of the county where the mortgaged premises or some portion thereof is situated, and the assignee or assignees of said mortgage have been dead for more than five years, such petition shall state such facts, and no statement respecting the mortgagee or mortgagees or the names and places of residence of their heirs shall be required; or if such mortgagee be a corporation or association, that such corporation or association has ceased to exist and do business as such for more than five years; the time and place of his or their death, and place of residence at the time of his or their death; whether or not letters testamentary or of administration have been taken out, or, if said mortgagee or mortgagees, or assignee or assignees at the time of his or their death resided out of this state, whether or not letters testamentary or of administration have been taken out in the county where such mortgaged premises are situated; or if a corporation or association, its last place of business; the names and places of residence, as far as the same can be ascertained, of the heirs of such mortgagee or mortgagees, or assignee or assignees; or, if such mortgagee be a corporation or association, then the names of one or more of the receivers, if any were appointed, or of the person who has the care of the closing up of the business of such corporation or association, and that such mortgage has not been assigned or transferred, and if such mortgage has been assigned, state to whom and the facts in regard to the same.
Provided, however, that if such mortgage has been duly assigned, by indorsement thereof or otherwise, but not acknowledged so as to entitle the same to be recorded, then it shall be competent for the court, at any time within the period aforesaid, upon proof that all the matters hereinbefore required to be stated in said petition are true, and that the assignee of such mortgage if living, or his personal representative if dead, has been paid the amount due thereon, to make an order that such mortgage be discharged of record.
Provided, further, that in case of a mortgage which was recorded or adjudged to have been paid and no longer a lien, more than fifty years prior to the presentation of such petition, if the petitioner is unable with reasonable diligence to ascertain the facts herein required to be stated in the petition, other than the fact of payment, the petition may set forth the best knowledge and information of the petitioner in respect thereto and what efforts have been made to ascertain such facts, and if the court shall be satisfied that the petitioner has made reasonable effort to ascertain such facts, and that the same cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence, it may then, in its discretion, proceed upon said petition as hereinafter provided.
3. Such petition may be presented to the supreme court in the county in which the mortgaged premises are situated, or to the county court of such county.
4. The court, upon the presentation of such petition, shall make an order requiring all persons interested to show cause at a certain time and place, why such mortgage should not be discharged of record. The names of the mortgagor, mortgagee and assignee, if any, the date of the mortgage and where recorded, and the town or city in which the mortgaged premises are situate, shall be specified in the order. The order shall be published in such newspaper or newspapers, and for such time as the court shall direct. The court may also direct the order to be personally served upon such persons as it shall designate.
5. The court may issue commissions to take the testimony of witnesses and may refer it to a referee to take and report proofs of the facts stated in the petition. The certificate of the proper surrogate or surrogates, whether or not letters testamentary or of administration have been issued, shall be evidence of the fact; and the certificate of the clerk of the county or counties in which the mortgaged premises have been situate, since the date of the said mortgage, shall be evidence of the assignment of such mortgage, or of a notice of the pendency of an action to foreclose such mortgage, and of such other matters as may be therein stated; or if a notice of the pendency of an action to foreclose such mortgage has been filed, then his certificate that such mortgage has never been foreclosed. Unless the allegation of payment shall be denied, and evidence be given tending to rebut the presumption of payment, arising from lapse of time, such lapse of time shall be sufficient evidence of payment. Upon being satisfied that the matters alleged in the petition are true, the court may make an order that the mortgage be discharged of record.
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