Housing

Quitclaim Deeds

A quitclaim deed is a type of real property deed. This article provides a brief introduction to the topic of real property deeds and describes the major differences between quitclaim deeds and warranty deeds.

If you are considering receiving a transfer of real property through a quitclaim deed, you are strongly advised to consult an attorney or other professional before you complete the transaction.

What is real property?

“Real property” is land and any other property – such as a house – that is directly attached to the land.

What is a real property deed?

A real property deed is a written and signed legal document that is used to transfer title to (ownership of) real property from one person (the “grantor”) to another (the “grantee”).

What does a real property deed need to say?

In order to be legally enforceable, a real property deed must:

  • be in writing (verbal transfers of real property ordinarily will not be enforced)
  • identify both the grantor and the grantee
  • adequately describe the real property
  • include language which makes it clear that the property is being transferred
  • be signed by the grantor in front of a notary
  • be legally delivered to the grantee or their representative
  • be accepted by the grantee

What are the main types of real property deeds?

Real property deeds are categorized according to the kinds of “warranty” that they provide. The more “warranties” that are promised by the grantor to the grantee in the deed, the more protected the grantee will be if something goes wrong in the future.

The main types of real property deeds are general warranty deeds (which offer the highest level protection), special warranty deeds (which offer less protection), and quitclaim deeds (which offer no protection at all).

General warranty deeds

General warranty deeds include legally binding promises (or “covenants”) which protect the grantee and the grantee’s heirs against the prior claims and demands of any person with regard to the real property being transferred.

A general warranty deed includes each of the following covenants:

  • the covenant of seisin (through which the grantor warrants that they own the real property and have the legal right to transfer it)
  • the covenant against encumbrances (through which the grantor warrants that the real property is free of liens or encumbrances, except for any which the deed explicitly identifies)
  • the covenant of quiet enjoyment (through which the grantor warrants that their title is not defective so the grantee should not be disturbed in their possession of the real property by anyone else claiming title)
  • the covenant of further assurance (through which the grantor promises to cure any defects required to give the grantee good title)

Special warranty deeds

Whereas a general warranty deed includes a legally binding promise from the grantor to the grantee that the grantor will defend the grantee’s title to the real property against the claims or demands of anyone, including any previous owner, a special warranty includes only a promise from the grantor to the grantee that the grantor has not done anything to render the title defective while the grantor has held the title.

What is a quitclaim deed?

Unlike a warranty deed, a quitclaim deed contains no promises from the grantor to the grantee of any kind with regard to the real property being transferred. A quitclaim deed simply transfers whatever present title the grantor has – regardless of whether that title is defective or even legal – to the grantee.

Through a quitclaim deed, the grantor abandons (or “quits”) any and all right or claim to the real property and transfers it to the grantee. The grantee receives the grantor’s title, but without any warranty.

When are quitclaim deeds commonly used?

Quitclaim deeds are commonly used in real estate transactions involving current or former family members – as when parents or grandparents gift real property to their children or grandchildren or when divorcing spouses divide up their assets (if one spouse is awarded 100% of the marital home, then the other spouse often transfers their 50% interest in the home to the first spouse by quitclaim deed). 

What are some of the advantages of a quitclaim deed?

The advantages of using a quitclaim deed to transfer real property title include each of the following:

  • they are quick and easy to prepare
  • anyone can prepare one (no specialized knowledge is required)
  • neither the grantor nor the grantee has to pay for an attorney or other expert to prepare it or review it
  • they can be a useful alternative to a gift made by will – and the potentially expensive and time-consuming probate process which follows – for a person who otherwise plans on bequeathing the real property to an heir upon their death

What are some of the drawbacks of a quitclaim deed?

The drawbacks of using a quitclaim deed to transfer real property title include each of the following:

  • they transfer only the ownership interest that the grantor (the seller) actually has to the real property (whatever that interest may be)
  • they offer no guarantees against claims by other owners, leaseholders (e.g. tenants), and lienholders (e.g. creditors) of the real property
  • they offer no guarantees against the existence of easements or restrictions on the use of the real property
  • they are comparatively easy to fake

Why are quitclaim deeds considered risky?

If the grantor who transfers title through a quitclaim deed actually has clear title to the real property, then the grantee should have nothing to worry about. However, if the grantor’s title to the real property turns out to be clouded or defective – or even non-existent – then the grantee will be out of luck. The grantee will have no legal basis on which to sue the grantor, because the grantor will not have broken any promise.

When should quitclaim deeds be used?

Ideally, quitclaim deeds should only be used when the parties to a real estate transaction – both the grantor and the grantee – know and trust each other. In any other circumstance, the prospective grantee (the buyer) should be wary.

At a minimum, the prospective grantee may wish to go to or visit the website of the Office of the Recorder in the county in which the real property is located to investigate whether anyone other than the prospective grantor appears to have an interest in the real property.

 

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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