The Torrens system is a system whereby titles to real estate are registered as being in a certain person at the date of registration and a certificate of title is issued by the state declaring title in such person.
The method of examining titles by means of the record and the abstracts has seemed cumbersome and wasteful to many persons. Suppose that A buys land in the year 1912. He must have his attorneys examine the title notwithstanding this title may have been examined many times in years past by other attorneys and their opinions given thereupon. Notwithstanding all this examination and bringing down of abstracts there is nothing of record, nothing of legal effect, which states just in whom title is. It was therefore questioned why there might not be a system of registering the title and having the state declare by certificate that a certain person at a certain date is the legal owner thereof, subsequent transfers being registered and new certificates issued. In 1858 Robert R. Torrens introduced a bill in the Australian Legislature providing for the registration of real estate. This law has been adopted in modified form in England, Ireland, Canada, and some of the States and Territories of the United States, namely, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, the Philippine Islands and Hawaii.
It is said that there are three basic elements in the Torrens system: first a registered title; second, a governmental declaration of the ownership and condition of title, and third, a title which may not be disputed.
The registration of title is really the beginning of a suit to have the title settled and declared to be in a certain person.
The Torrens system has not been widely adopted and has never been generally successful in the sense that it has very materially decreased the other mode of conveying real estate.
The idea of the Torrens System appears to be excellent but it has had strenuous opposition and has not had the success in most states that its vouchers have hoped for. It is, however, comparatively new in this country, the first act having been passed in Illinois in 1895. It is hardly the province of this book to go largely into this doctrine and the whole matter is now in such a state that a prediction of its future extent and value would be a mere matter of opinion. For a detailed consideration of this subject the reader is referred to the book cited in the foot note. That author makes the following statement: "It may be said with confidence that neither the Torrens system nor the recording system is so complex, insecure, slow or costly as to depreciate the natural value of land. Each system possesses, perhaps with some varying degree, all the necessary elements of a practical and successful method of conveying and dealing with land. In the present state of our constitutional law, the Torrens system in this country can never produce what it purports to effect, namely, a conclusive certificate of an indefeasible title in the registered owner, and can never be made so simple and secure as the foreign systems. The natural and logical effect of our laws is the development of title insurance, a guaranteed certificate of title, and not the development of a certificate of ownership of an indefeasible title to land, issued by the state. Such is the opinion of many thoughtful persons who are equipped to judge of such matters. But the progress of the Torrens system in this country is not to be impeded by mere adverse opinion as to its adaptability to our laws. A large part of the people in several states desire to have it tried, and the trial is now on. It is useless for its advocates to gain little advantages for it from state legislatures, and it is equally useless for its opponents to throw obstacles in its way. This trial is to be a fair one, it is to be conducted patiently and slowly, and it will not be concluded until the success or failure of the system is demonstrated."