A deed is a legal document which confirms what rights, real property, or both, have been passed from one individual to another. A deed is most often associated with real property and transferring title to that property.

There are also other types of deeds, which include:

What are the Parts of a Deed?

Deeds often include confusing and complex language. However, they usually include the following:

  • A grant clause, which contains important information, which includes:
    • the parties’ names;
    • a description of the land to be transferred; and
    • the price paid for the deed;
  • A habendum clause, which means to have and to hold. This section is used to describe the type of property interest which is being transferred. It is important to note that if the habendum clause contradicts the grand clause, the property in the grant clause will prevail;
  • The warranty clause, which lists the type of title assurance that is being provided by the grantor;
  • The execution clause, which includes the signature of the grantor and the date showing that the transfer is valid; and
  • The acknowledgement clause or certificate, which may be notarized and contain the signatures of any other witnesses as well as the grantee.

What Terms Related to Deeds do I Need to Know?

There are several terms which may help an individual understand issues surrounding real property deeds, including:

  • Alienation, which is a transfer of title of property from the current owner to a new owner;
  • Consideration, which is the money or other thing of value which is given by the buyer to the seller in exchange for the transfer of property;
  • Defective title, which is a title that:
  • Fee simple or fee, which is the rights related to a piece of real property which may be inherited by an owner’s heirs and provide the new owner the most extensive rights an individual can have in real property. These rights are commonly referred to as simple ownership in the parcel of property;
  • Good title, which means that the piece of real property is free from:
    • mortgage claims;
    • tax liens;
    • title claims;
    • judgments;
    • mechanic’s liens; or
    • any other encumbrances;
  • Grantee, or an individual who receives title to a property, typically the buyer;
  • Grantor, or the individual who holds title to the property and executes the deed which transfers the property to another individual, usually the seller;
  • Legal description, which is a description of the property based on surveys of the property which show the exact boundaries of the parcel;
  • Tenants in common, joint tenants, or tenants by entirety are types of ownership where more than one individual possesses the property at the same time as joint owners; and
  • Words of conveyance, which are words that show an intent to transfer the title to the real property. These words are usually required by law but the exact phrasing may vary by jurisdiction.

What are Property Records?

Property records are legal documents and paperwork that contain information related to real property, homes, or plots of land. Usually, property records refer to the deed to a property, which indicates who currently has legal ownership of that property.

Once a deed is signed and transferred to a new owner, that deed must be recorded. If a purchase or sale of real property occurs, that transaction should be recorded in the local office of the recorder of deeds.

It is also necessary to record a deed if the property is transferred through an individual’s will or as a gift.

What is a Registry of Deeds?

A registry of deeds is a location where documents which establish the ownership of property are recorded in the official books. These documents usually include deeds to the properties.

These documents, however, may also contain information regarding:

  • Mortgages;
  • Real estate contracts; and
  • Other property documents.

The registry of deeds is typically maintained by public officers or county officials. The documents found at the registry of deeds are available to the public in the event that a deed or the ownership of a property comes into question.

A registry of deeds may also sometimes be referred to by other names, such as the recorder of deeds or register of deeds and is usually operated at the county level. These registries are very important for providing information as well as support for real estate purposes.

A registry of deeds maintains a single location where property deeds are indexed. This registry, or index, of deeds may be searched by an individual or party who may be interested in obtaining title to a piece of real property.

There are also other types of documents which are regularly recorded at a registry of deeds, which include:

  • Deeds;
  • Mechanic’s liens;
  • Mortgages; and
  • Releases.

The recording and registration of deeds is governed by state recording acts. Recording acts are laws that regulate issues including:

  • Recordation;
  • Title searches; and
  • Deed contests.

It is very important to have a recorded deed. This is especially true if there is a property dispute where more than one individual or party is attempting to record a deed for the same piece of property.

When are Registries of Deeds Used?

A registry of deeds is often used when an individual needs to research the background or history of a property. In many cases, this type of research is connected to the purchase and sale of a residence.

In these situations, both the buyer and the seller need to confirm that a piece of real property may be legally transferred from one individual or party to another. The registry of deeds can be used to assist with:

  • A title search, which can include confirming the present and previous owners;
  • Confirming that the title is marketable, in other words that there are no restrictions on the transferability, such as an outstanding lien or an easement;
  • Discovering any title defects; and
  • Other issues such as a transfer-on-death deed.

Why Should a Deed be Recorded?

It is extremely important to record a real estate document. There are two main reasons why a deed should be recorded, including a title search and certainty of title.

Title searches are used when an interested party needs to examine the title to a piece of real property. The interested individual or party will often attempt to locate the deed or title at the county recorder’s office where the property is located.

If the real property is listed at the recorder’s office, those documents will provide important information regarding the property. For example, a deed will usually list the chain of ownership of the piece of property. It will also provide a listing of any encumbrances to the title, including liens.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Deed?

The assistance of a real estate lawyer is essential for any issues you may have surrounding a deed, especially if you are making a real estate sale or purchase. A properly recorded and legally valid deed is essential for finalizing a proper real estate transfer.

Your lawyer can perform a title search at the registry of deeds. Your lawyer can also represent you in court if any legal disputes or conflicts arise over the property.

The language that is contained in a deed may be complex and intimidating. Your lawyer can review the deed and confirm that all necessary parts are included and that the deed may be enforced by a court of law.

It is important to remember that a real estate agent is a salesperson and may not have the expertise to perform a thorough deed review or be able to confirm that the deed will survive a challenge in court. Your attorney can review your deed and ensure the transaction runs smoothly.