Real estate deeds are legal documents which dictate who owns a particular piece of real property. Real estate deeds grant ownership rights in the property to another individual because they are used to transfer ownership.

In general, real estate deeds include certain information, including:

  • The names of the parties;
  • A description of the real property; and
  • The signature of the parties.

It is important for an individual to check their local state laws in order to determine if there are any special requirements for real estate deeds in order to ensure that the deed is a legal and valid document. It is also important to have the help of an attorney for any issues surrounding deeds in order to provide protections for both parties as well as ensure the transaction runs smoothly.

What Are the Main Types of Real Estate Deeds?

There are several different types of real estate deeds which are available depending upon what rights the current owner is transferring in the property. The three main categories of real estate deeds include:

  • General warranty deeds;
  • Quitclaim deeds; and
  • Grant deeds.

A general warranty deed transfers ownership in real estate in its entirety. A general warranty deed promises and clear and free title.

A quitclaim deed transfers whatever ownership rights the current owner has in the real property, even in cases where those rights are unclear. This means that there may also be other partial owners of the property or unknown liens.

A grant deed transfers an ownership interest in real property. It also typically contains a promise that the current owner did not previously transfer the real property to another individual.

In order to help understand the three main types of real estate deeds, it may be helpful to review some examples. Suppose an individual has a paper trail which proves that they are the sole owner of a piece of real estate and that there were three prior liens which were satisfied in full.

The individual then transfers the house to another party via a general warranty deed, which grants full ownership rights and promises clean title. If, in the future, the buyer finds out there was a fourth unpaid lien, the original owner will have to compensate them accordingly.

Suppose, in the same scenario, the owner includes in the deed that there were no previous transfers but they do not make any absolute promises regarding clean title. In this case, this is an example of a grant deed. It would be important for the buyer to run a title search prior to completing the real estate transfer in order to determine if there would be any obligations after the property is transferred.

Lastly, suppose an individual with an interest in real estate wants to quickly get rid of their ownership rights and they are unclear regarding the chain of title. They would then transfer their rights via a quitclaim deed.

The individual receiving the quitclaim deed would then receive whatever rights the seller had with no promises regarding clean title or the absence of previous transfers. As can be imagined, this type of deed often causes issues to arise down the road.

There are also other types of deeds, which may include:

Speaking to an attorney will assist with determining which type of deed is the best way to transfer real estate ownership interests in a particular situation.

What is a Quitclaim Deed?

Quitclaim deeds are legal documents which allow grantors to transfer real property to grantees. When transferring the property, however, a grantor does not make any warranties or promises regarding the property.

Essentially, a grantor is conveying whatever interest they do have in the real property even if there is a debt attached to the property.

What Are the Requirements of a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed has certain requirements, including:

  • Being in writing;
  • Describing the property in question; and
  • Listing the names of the grantor and grantee.

How Do I Contest a Quitclaim Deed?

It is very difficult to revoke a quitclaim deed. In order for the grantor to contest a quitclaim deed, they must show that the deed was signed under:

In other words, a grantor must show that they did not sign over the property voluntarily and that they did not intend to convey the property.

What Are the Uses of Quitclaim Deeds?

Local governments often use quitclaim deeds when they are selling property which has been foreclosed upon. In addition, individuals who are transferring property into their living trust may use a quitclaim deed.

A quitclaim deed may also be used by an individual who is attempting to escape liability from a mortgage payment which they share with a spouse.

How Are Real Estate Deed Disputes Handled?

As previously noted, quitclaim deeds may often cause disputes to arise. These types of disputes typically arise because there is not a clear title or a promise was made which turns out to be untrue.

It may be helpful to examine a deed dispute example which may arise from a quitclaim deed. Recall the previous scenario where the individual used a quitclaim deed to transfer their property interest.

Suppose there is a third party who also claims to have an interest in the real property and wants to dispute the transfer as invalid. Common assertions which may be made by that third party include forgery, fraud, or that there is no signature present to legally execute that deed.

In order to resolve this type of issue, an individual would have to present evidence which supports the validity of the transfer. The best evidence would be having the deed recorded.

However, if that did not occur, other evidence may include written communication, a witness to the actual transfer, or proof of the original transfer which shows how much interest or title existed prior to the quitclaim deed being used.

How Can Real Estate Deed Conflicts be Prevented?

Documentation is the best way to prevent future conflicts regarding real estate deeds. It is important to ensure all aspects of a transaction are in writing so there is proof of action if a conflict arises.

If the parties sign a contract or an agreement which outlines the terms of a transfer as well as how to handle any future disputes, it may help prevent conflicts. It may also help navigate any that may arise.

Another method to prevent real estate deed conflicts is to run a title search. A title search will confirm that a seller legally owns the real property.

Title searches will also reveal any co-owners, liens, or other issues which may cloud a title. Title insurance can also provide a buyer with an additional layer of protection.

Are There Any Legal Remedies for Real Estate Deed Disputes?

Yes, there are several possible legal remedies which may apply in a real estate dispute, including:

  • Compensation which is awarded to remedy an unknown lien or other type of defect, depending on the type of deed involved;
  • Other monetary damages for economic losses suffered; and
  • Equitable remedies in certain types of cases, such as boundary disputes with a neighboring property. For example, a court may order a homeowner to move a fence if the property was incorrectly described on a deed.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of a property lawyer for any questions, issues, or concerns you may have with a quitclaim deed or a property transfer. Your attorney can examine your case, determine if another type of deed should be used, and assist you if any issues arise related to your deed.