What is a quitclaim deed?
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A quitclaim deed is a legal document in which a grantor (owner) transfers their interest in a property to a grantee (recipient). It conveys all the grantor’s interest in the property and releases a person’s interest in a property without stating the nature of the person’s interest or rights, and with no warranties of that person’s interest or rights in the property.
In other words, a quitclaim deed makes no assurance that the grantor actually has an ownership interest in a property; it merely states that if the grantor does, they release those ownership rights.
What is a quitclaim deed?
Quitclaim deeds are typically used to transfer property in non-sale situations — that is, when no money changes hands, such as transfers of property between relatives or parties who know each other well. They do not involve any financial compensation or legal clauses that protect the parties involved.
Still, while less formal than other types of deeds, they must adhere to certain protocols. The deed document itself must include the names of the grantor and grantee, a description of the property, and when the property is to be transferred. It must then be signed by both parties and notarized before being filed at a local county clerk’s office. If more than one person owns the property, all of them must sign the deed.
In some states a witness signature may also be required. If the parties doing the quitclaiming live in another state, it’s important make sure the proper procedures for signing and witnessing are followed for the out-of-state party signatures.
When should you use a quitclaim deed?
A quitclaim deed is most often used for transferring property between family members, or to add or remove a person to the title, or or to cure a simple defect on the title, such as a mistake in an address or the misspelling of a name. It often comes into play in scenarios like marriage or divorce, or in cases of bequests or gifts.
Quitclaims are also used when it is unclear who in the chain of title may have an interest due to an inheritance — say, i.e. the decedent’s brother’s wife’s cousin — or a change in marital status, like the children or relatives of a divorcing couple.
Quitclaim deed vs. warranty deed
In real estate, there are two types of transfers that involve deeds: quitclaim deeds and warranty deeds. The key difference between quitclaim and warranty deeds is the extent to which they safeguard the grantee/recipient’s interests.
A warranty deed transfers ownership and explicitly promises that the grantor/owner/seller holds good title to all or part of the property and legal rights to the real estate. It includes full property descriptions and pledges that the grantor owns clear title to their described interest in the property.
It also promises that the property is free and clear of all liens, encumbrances and possible restrictions. In other words, it guarantees that the grantor owns the property, has the legal right to sell it, and will transfer the title free and clear of liens or claims by other parties.
A quitclaim deed is less formal than a warranty deed. It transfers ownership, but makes no promises or guarantees about what that interest is or if that title is good. Simple but limited, it only transfers the legal rights to a property, if any exist, from the grantor to the grantee without any representation, claim, or “buyer protection,” so to speak.
Of the two, the warranty deed is more complicated. A quitclaim deed can be as effective as a warranty deed to transfer title, but only if the title is good. In contrast, warranty deeds offer a greater amount of protection to the grantee/recipient/buyer. If the grantor of a warranty deed misrepresents the title or their ownership, the grantee can sue them. With a quitclaim deed, however, the grantee of the property would have no such protection.
People typically use quitclaim deeds to convey titles between friends, family members or former relatives, while warranty deeds are more common between professional parties and in complex real estate transactions — like those involving mortgages.
Final word on quitclaim deeds
If you plan to use a quitclaim deed, you need to understand the rules for drafting it in your state: The language and legalities can vary by location. It’s best to consult a real estate attorney for assistance before you begin the process. A small mistake or an omission can be costly, both literally and figuratively, down the road.
The costs associated with the deed process may include the fee of the real estate attorney, who identifies the names of the parties, determines the legal description of the property, and prepares the documents. Expenses may also include administrative fees charged by your county or municipality for recording and filing the deed: An unrecorded deed is pretty much worthless. And always record the deed as soon as possible — because when it comes to claims, often the “first in time is first in line.”