When talking about real estate ownership, you may have heard the term “quitclaim deed” used. But what is a quitclaim deed, and how does it compare to other types of deeds?
Most importantly, should you use or accept one when buying, selling or transferring ownership of real estate?
Here’s what you need to know about quitclaim deeds and how they are most commonly used.
In This Article
- What is a Quitclaim Deed?
- When You Should Use a Quitclaim Deed
- General Warranty Deed vs. Quitclaim Deed
- Do You Need a Quitclaim Deed?
- How to Create a Quitclaim Deed
What is a Quitclaim Deed?
Whenever you transfer ownership of real estate, you must use a deed in order to do so. The deed to a property shows who owns it.
The most common deeds that are used to transfer ownership include:
- General warranty deed – Used in traditional real estate transactions
- Special warranty deed – Often used in commercial property purchases
- Personal representative’s deed – Used when the seller is managing the estate of a deceased family member
Each of these deed types has different guarantees regarding the new ownership of the property.
Quitclaim deeds are unique. They provide a quick way to transfer ownership of a property to a buyer. However, these offer the fewest guarantees and protections of all available deeds.
For that reason, this type of deed should be used carefully. Both parties should understand what they are signing and/or giving up in terms of protections.
If you are using real estate websites to find a home to buy from someone you don’t know, a quitclaim deed may not be the best option.
That said, there are some instances when a quitclaim deed can be helpful.
When You Should Use a Quitclaim Deed
Quitclaim deeds are most often used in real estate transfers where there is a high level of trust between the transferring parties.
Here are some examples of situations where it is common to use this type of deed.
Quitclaim deeds are most frequently used in divorce situations. This is because both parties typically know about any liens or encumbrances on the property.
Couples likely purchased the home together. This means that both parties signed for any liens placed against the property during the time of ownership.
Attorneys like to use quitclaim deeds in divorce situations. The reason for this is that they are faster and easier to process than general warranty deeds.
However, a quitclaim deed does not remove the transferor’s name from any mortgages on the home. It also won’t release them from the legal responsibility to make payments on those mortgages.
While it is the deed that is most commonly used during a divorce, you’ll want to be sure you know what you’re signing.
Revocable Living Trust
When people transfer ownership of real estate from their own name to a living trust, they may use a quitclaim deed.
For example, let’s say you are using an online company to create your will. During that process, you decide to establish a living trust as an additional facet of your estate planning.
A living trust is a legal document where the grantor (owner of the assets) designates a trustee to manage their assets on behalf of a future beneficiary.
Living trusts can make it easier to distribute any assets after the grantor passes away.
Individuals often use quitclaim deeds to transfer their real estate property to their living trust. This is because it’s a fast way to handle property distribution in estate planning.
Adding an Owner
Quitclaim deeds are used in many cases when the owner(s) of a piece of real estate want to add another person to the deed.
For example, let’s say you recently got married and want to add your spouse as a legal owner to the house you bought before you married them.
Or, let’s say you purchased a home to use as a rental property and you’re taking on a partner to help with your new venture.
If these examples apply to you, then you may want to use this type of deed to add your partner as a co-owner.
Quitclaim deeds can be used in co-ownership transfers of real estate property. Let’s say you and your two siblings equally co-own a family cabin that once belonged to your parents.
At some point, two siblings agree to buy the third sibling’s share for a specified sum of money. A quitclaim deed may be used to remove the third sibling from deed ownership of the property.
Quitclaim deeds can be used for nearly any type of co-ownership transfer. However, consulting a real estate attorney is always a good idea when transferring property ownership.
Altering the Way Property is Held
Any time you’re altering how a property is held, a quitclaim deed may be used. For instance, let’s say you own your home with your spouse as tenants in common.
Tenants in common can own different percentages of the value of a property. When one owner dies, the deceased person’s ownership portion of the home goes to the deceased person’s beneficiaries.
However, with joint tenancy ownership, each person owns an equal part of the property. When one owner dies, that person’s ownership automatically transfers to the other joint owner.
If you want to modify a deed from tenants in common to joint tenancy, you can use a quitclaim deed to do so.
General Warranty Deed vs. Quitclaim Deed
Different types of real estate deeds offer differing protections for buyers. Here are some additional details about the difference between a warranty deed and a quitclaim deed.
General Warranty Deed
A general warranty deed (or warranty deed) offers the most protection for a buyer. It guarantees that the current owner has full rights to the property free of any liens or other encumbrances.
For instance, let’s say you purchased a house. A month after you closed, it came to light that the previous owner had an unpaid bill for some work done on the house.
If you used a warranty deed when you bought your home, the company that did the work but wasn’t paid can’t come after you for payment, and they no longer have title interest in the house.
This would only happen if the company didn’t file its lien on the property correctly. If they had, the title company would have found it during the discovery process and ensured that the loan was paid at closing.
However, in an event similar to this one, you would not be responsible if you had a warranty deed on the property.
Conversely, the quitclaim deed offers the least protection for a buyer.
There are no protections for the grantee (recipient/transferee) of the deed by the grantor (transferor) protecting them from liability for liens or other encumbrances that may be attached to the property.
Let’s say you purchased a home using a quitclaim deed and the same situation with the home repair from the previous buyer arose. What would happen?
If you couldn’t get the previous owner to pay the debt, you may need to pay that debt yourself in order to get the lender’s lien off your property.
Based on the scenario above, these types of deeds can be very risky. For that reason, it’s advisable to use them cautiously.
To be safe, consult a real estate attorney before signing one.
Do You Need a Quitclaim Deed?
Whether or not you need a quitclaim deed to transfer or to receive ownership on a property depends on the situation regarding the property you’re transferring.
With a this type of deed, no title search is done to discover any existing liens and encumbrances on the property. This is where the risk in quitclaim deeds lies.
For that reason, you’ll want to avoid using this kind of deed when you’re buying property in the traditional manner from a seller you don’t know.
You may also want to think twice about using this type of deed if you’re buying a home from friends or acquaintances. There is simply too much risk involved with the lack of a title search.
However, as previously discussed, there are some instances in which it might be acceptable (or even advisable) to use a quitclaim deed.
Ultimately, it’s likely best to only use a quitclaim deed when you have a highly trustworthy relationship with the other parties involved.
Keep in mind that even in those situations, it’s important to proceed cautiously.
How to Create a Quitclaim Deed
Your quitclaim deed must be in writing in order to be valid.
The information listed within a quitclaim deed varies and may vary by state, but must include:
- The legal description of the property
- Name of the county, city and/or state the property is located in
- Date of transfer
- The name of the grantor
- The name of the grantee
- Dollar amount paid for the property, if applicable
After the quitclaim deed form is filled out, it must be filed with the proper city or county authorities to ensure legal transfer of property ownership.
You can create your own quitclaim deed form if you wish. However, there are many free quitclaim deed forms on the internet that you can use.
It’s also possible to purchase a quitclaim deed form online or at an office supply store.
Getting your signed quitclaim deed notarized by an official notary public can be a good idea.
State requirements for these types of deeds vary. Some require notarized signatures, and others may not.
Check with your local authorities to find out if having a signature on a quitclaim deed notarized is required.
Note that you may have to pay for this service since some people use their notary public status as a way to make money.
Furthermore, you may want to have an attorney look over your quitclaim deed if you are filling it out on your own.
Due to the fact that a quitclaim is a legal document, you’ll want to ensure it’s filled out correctly and in compliance with state and local laws.
A licensed real estate attorney can help you ensure the deed is written with the correct intent in mind.
Again, this is a service you may have to pay for. However, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Before using a quitclaim deed, here are some questions to consider.
Compared to other deed options, quitclaim deeds are a much faster and easier way to transfer property ownership or alter property ownership.
Real estate transactions can be complicated. Finding ways to safely simplify the process can make life easier.
Compared to other types of deeds, quitclaim deeds are riskier to use when transferring property. This is because they offer fewer protections and legal guarantees to the buyer.
It’s important to be aware of what you are giving up before signing on the dotted line
It’s advisable not to use quitclaim deeds when purchasing a home in the traditional manner or when you are working with people you don’t have a high level of trust with.
Talk to a real estate attorney when discussing deed options for any real estate transactions you are considering.
When you are selling your home or buying a home, a quitclaim deed can be a useful document for transferring ownership of real estate property. However, it’s important to use it properly.
Remember to only use this type of deed in cases where you have a hefty amount of trust in the other parties. These shouldn’t be used for traditional real estate transactions.
Additionally, make sure to consult with a lawyer if you have any questions before using a quitclaim deed.