Deeds are legal instruments used to facilitate the transfer of assets from one owner to another. More specifically, they are the legal vehicle by which someone may transfer a title (the legal ownership of a particular asset) to a new owner with an inherent level of protection. However, it is worth noting that not all deeds are created equal; some provide more protection than others.
Consequently, there’s a unique type of deed that may not award buyers the highest level of protection, but its utility is nonetheless valuable: the quitclaim deed. While quitclaim deeds offer an inherently low level of buyer protection, they are an invaluable tool for those who use them, which begs the question: What is a quitclaim deed?
The following will provide you with an introduction to these under-appreciated assets and offer guidance on when and how to file a quitclaim deed.
What Is A Quitclaim Deed?
By definition, a deed is a written legal document that passes or transfers interest or ownership of a single asset from one owner to another. That said, deeds may cover several different types of assets, which calls for numerous types of deeds based on the nature of the transfer. From a broad perspective, deeds may be classified under two categories: official and private. Aptly named, official deeds are carried out by a court or legal proceedings. As their names suggest, private deeds are pursuant to agreements struck by individuals or businesses outside of the court. In addition to these categories, deeds may be further broken down into three subcategories based on the level of protection they award buyers:
General Warranty Deeds: General warranty deeds award buyers peace of mind by confirming that the seller holds clear title to the asset, therefore ensuring that there are no title discrepancies with the transfer of ownership.
Special Warranty Deeds: A special warranty deed makes the same promises as a general warranty deed, but only during a certain period. As a result, special warranty deeds only make title guarantees during predetermined periods, and may leave buyers susceptible to discrepancies that may have occurred prior to the date stated on the deed.
Quitclaim Deeds: A quitclaim deed is an efficient way to transfer title from one owner to another, but offers very little protection to the buyer from future title discrepancies.
A quitclaim deed is not unlike most traditional deeds; it is a vehicle used to transfer interest or ownership in an asset from one owner to another. However, quitclaim deeds trade the safety and security of their general warranty and special warranty counterparts for speed and efficiency. In other words, quitclaim deeds will facilitate the transfer of title while simultaneously neglecting to provide any warranties for the buyer or recipient. Without any warranties, the seller can’t be held liable for any legal title discrepancies that arise later, and the buyer assumes all of the risk.
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When Is A Quitclaim Deed Used?
The nature of quitclaim deeds is not suited for traditional real estate transactions. The inherent lack of protection awarded to buyers poses too much of a risk to those working with sellers they do not know. Instead, quitclaim deeds are typically reserved for transfers which involve two parties who are intimately familiar with one another, not unlike:
Family Property Transfers
Removing Names From Titles
Rectifying Title Complications
Familial Property Transfers
The most common use of quitclaim deeds is to transfer property titles between family members. More often than not, transferring interest or title from one family member to another won’t involve money, and the two parties are already well acquainted. Therefore, the risk typically associated with quitclaim deeds becomes a moot point in the presence of trust and a lack of capital.
Removing Names From Titles
Quitclaim deeds have become a quick and efficient way to remove someone from a respective title. In the event of a divorce, for example, grantors are awarded the ability to remove their ex-spouse’s name from the property title or deed with the help of a quitclaim deed. However, it should be noted that despite the use of a quitclaim deed, the person removed from the title will still be present on the mortgage. The quitclaim deed merely transfers title of the property; it won’t free anyone from their mortgage obligations.
Rectifying Title Complications
Quitclaim deeds are often initiated to release interest in a property. In doing so, a quitclaim deed may clear some minor title discrepancies. If, for example, there’s either an unreleased lien or claim that’s threatening to make the property tile seem invalid, a quitclaim deed can help the culprit release interest in the property, thereby clearing the title for subsequent owners.
How To File A Quitclaim Deed
While less common than their more secure counterparts, quitclaim deeds aren’t anymore difficult to file. In fact, initiating a quitclaim deed is as simple as following these five steps:
Research Local Quitclaim Requirements: The circumstances that call for a quitclaim deed are few and far between. Therefore, anyone looking to transfer title or interest need to determine if a quitclaim deed is right for their situation and need to research local requirements. The requirements to initiate a quitclaim deed will vary from state to state, so it’s important to mind due diligence before committing to the process.
Gather The Proper Documents: Not unlike the previously mentioned requirements, the forms and documents required to initiate a quitclaim deed will vary from state to state. First, look up the forms your particular state will require to proceed and gather them in one place.
Obtain A Legal Property Description: To fill out the firms properly, titleholders will need to obtain a legal description of the property. While each state will describe properties differently, owners will need to confirm the property’s address, location information, and a description of the land it sits on. The description can usually be obtained from the existing deed or by visiting the local county office.
Fill Out A Quitclaim Deed Form: Work with an attorney to make sure the forms are filled out accordingly. More importantly, the forms must be filled out and signed in the presence of a notary.
File Quitclaim Deed Forms With County/City: Once everything is in place, filing a quitclaim deed is as simple as taking the forms to their final destination. Locate the office in your city or county that will file the quitclaim deed and bring them the forms.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Quitclaim Deeds
In their simplest form, quitclaim deeds efficiently transfer real property from one owner to another. The forms, in particular, are simple to fill out and only require three things: the buyer’s name, the seller’s name, and a legal description of the property. Often referred to as “quickclaim” deeds, quitclaim deeds can be initiated almost instantly, as long as the proper paperwork is filled out in front of a notary. While there’s no need for an attorney, it’s a good idea to have representation present at the time of signing. All things considered, quitclaim deeds are great tools for parties who trust each other to conduct business.
The disadvantages of quitclaim deeds are brought to light the instant they are used to initiate a title transfer between two unfamiliar parties. If for nothing else, quitclaim deeds trade security and warranties for speed and efficiency. In enabling a seamless transfer over a relatively short period, quitclaim deeds make no assurances that the title is discrepancy-free. Therefore, buyers are assuming a large amount of risk by agreeing to a quitclaim deed.
Quitclaim deeds have proven to be invaluable tools when two familiar parties are looking to transfer interest or ownership of a property. The speed and efficiency awarded to each participant are second to none, but they come at a cost. In exchange for initiating a quitclaim deed, the buyer or recipient is forfeiting any protection that suggests the title is free and clear of discrepancies. As a result, quitclaim deeds should be avoided in transfers involving unfamiliar parties. Nonetheless, they fill a specific niche, and their use can be invaluable to those who execute them properly.
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