‘Father of title insurance’ dies at 97

March 29, 2019

Ernest G. Carlsen, known as Ernie, the man who brought title insurance to South Dakota, died this week, one month shy of his 98th birthday.

Carlsen founded Land Title Guaranty Co. in 1955, which his family owned until the end of 2013, when he retired at age 92.

Under the leadership of Carlsen and his wife, Bonnie, Land Title insured more than 90,000 real estate transactions.

“As an expert in real estate law and title insurance, he willingly shared his knowledge and skills with countless people in his community and statewide,” according to his obituary, which notes Carlsen was known for teaching others in the business world.

“He was the ‘go-to’ guy for lawyers in both Sioux Falls and around the state when they had complicated problems relating to real property, including problems with land titles within estates. He was there to help and to educate, and he always enjoyed the challenge. He was a knowledgeable and trusted adviser to individuals, realtors, bankers, builders, developers, attorneys and others with both simple and complex title questions.”

Land Title also employed dozens of people, including many who become long-term employees thanks to how Carlsen ran the business, his obituary said.

“As an innovator in his business, he introduced monthly profit sharing for his staff, so they could immediately share in the profits of the business. Ernie and Bonnie helped pay college expenses for many young people on their staff, and they were innovators with paid maternity leave and medical leave,” it said. “Due to his kindness, competence and innovative leadership, he had a very loyal and devoted staff, some of whom worked for him for 40 years. Twenty years was the average longevity for the staff at the time of his retirement.”

Carlsen was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2017 as “the father of title insurance” for how he brought the real estate protection product to South Dakota, which previously used an abstracting system.

Carlsen also had extensive community involvement.

He was a founding charter member of the Sioux Empire Home Builders Association and was inducted into the Home Builders Hall of Fame in 2006. He was an active contributor to the Realtor Association of the Sioux Empire Inc., a member of the Sioux Falls Downtown Lions Club, where he worked every Pancake Days since its inception until recently. Carlsen also served 10  years on the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Board, including as president, and was instrumental in early development of the riverfront, preserving the band shell at McKennan Park, building several swimming pools and establishing the Delbridge Museum of Natural History at the Great Plains Zoo. He even traveled to China to help secure the mounted panda bear that remains in the museum.

“He was an honorable businessman who loved his work, his city and his state, and was dedicated to serving the people he was privileged to know,” his obituary said. “In return, he was greatly loved by his family and staff and much respected by all who knew him.”

To view the complete obituary and information on arrangements, click here. 

‘Father of title insurance’ dies at 97

Ernest G. Carlsen, known as Ernie, the man who brought title insurance to South Dakota, died this week, one month shy of his 98th birthday.

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