Real Estate Deeds Law & Legal Definition


A deed is the written document which transfers title (ownership) or an interest in real property to another person. The deed must describe the real property, name the party transferring the property (grantor), the party receiving the property (grantee) and be signed and notarized by the grantor. To complete the transfer (conveyance) the deed must be recorded in the office of the County Recorder or Recorder of Deeds. There are two basic types of deeds: a warranty deed, which guarantees that the grantor owns title, and the quitclaim deed, which transfers only that interest in the real property which the grantor actually has. The quitclaim is often used among family members or from one joint owner to the other when there is little question about existing ownership, or just to clear the title. A written document for the transfer of land or other real property from one person to another. A quitclaim deed conveys only such rights as the grantor has. A warranty deed conveys specifically described rights which together comprise good title.

A deed may be avoided by alterations made in it subsequent to its execution, when made by the party himself, whether they are material or immaterial, and by any material alteration, even when made by a stranger. The disagreement of those parties whose assent to the transfer is necessary may invalidate the deed. For instance, in the case of a married woman, by the disagreement of her hushand or by the judgment of a competent tribunal.

There are many situations in which it may be desirable to add or delete a person's name from a deed, such as adding or removing a spouse, child or sibling. A person can only be deleted from a deed with their approval, i.e., they must execute the deed (sign and have their signature notarized).

Types of Deeds:

Warranty Deed

If a deed is intended to be a general warranty deed, it should contain a phase specified by state law such as the phrase "conveys and warrants". These words, called operative words of conveyance, carry with them several warranties which the grantor is making to the grantee. Examples of the warranties are:

First, the grantor warrants that the grantor is the lawful owner of the property at the time the deed is made and delivered and that the grantor has the right to convey the property.

Second, the grantor warrants that the property is free from all encumbrances or liens.

Third, the grantor warrants that he or she will defend title to the estate so that the grantee and the grantee's heirs and assigns may enjoy quiet and peaceable possession of the premises with the power to convey the property.

Quitclaim Deed

A quit claim deed conveys to the grantee and the grantee's heirs and assigns in fee all of the legal or equitable rights the grantor has in the property that existed at the time of the conveyance. An example of operative words of conveyance are "convey and quit claim." There are no warranties of title.

Special or Limited Warranty Deed

In contrast to a general warranty deed, a special warranty deed limits the liability of the grantor by warranting only what the deed explicitly states. A special warranty deed has practically the same effect as a quitclaim deed. Special warranty deeds are generally used by corporations or other entities that want to avoid assuming the liability of a general warranty deed. Like the general warranty deed, the special warranty deed should contain the appropriate language such as "conveys and specially warrants." Usually, the grantor warrants that he or she did nothing to impair title during the period the grantor held the title. While a special warranty deed may contain covenants of title, these covenants will usually cover only those claims arising by, through, or under the grantor.

Fiduciary Deed

This is a deed to be executed by a fiduciary such as a trustee, guardian, conservator, or similar person in their appointed capacity.

Security Deed

This deed is used, rather than a mortgage, to give a lender a security interest in the property. A security deed, as opposed to a mere mortgage, passes legal title to the land while reserving unto the debtor the equitable title to use and enjoy the conveyed land subject to compliance with debt obligations.

Release Deed

This deed, also known as a deed of reconveyance, transfers all of the rights granted to a trustee under a deed of trust loan back to the grantor after the loan has been fully repaid.

Terms Common to Deeds:

Grantor

The person who owns the property and executes the deed conveying the property to another person. This can be one or more persons, a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), partnership or other entity.

Grantee

The person who receives title to the property. The grantee can be one or more persons, a corporation, LLC, partnership or other entity.

Consideration

The value given to the grantor by the grantee in exchange for the conveyance. Some states include the exact consideration in the deed and others do not but instead include a statement of consideration as being 10.00 and other good and valuable consideration.

Operative Words of Conveyance

These are state specific and generally are statutory. They show intent to transfer present title. As previously mentioned, examples are "conveys and warrants", or "convey and quitclaim" or convey and specially warrant".

Legal Description

The legal definition of the property being conveyed. This is contained in the deed where the grantor obtained title to the property and should be used in the deed where the grantor conveys the property exactly as written in the grantors deed unless not all of the property is being conveyed.

Life Estate

A life estate is where a person owns all the benefits of ownership in the property during their life, or the life of another, with the property going to a remainder person after the death of the life tenant.

Tenants in Common

This is how two or more people (co-tenants) may take title to property who intent their share in the property to be separate from the other on death. On the death of the tenant in common the deceased persons ownership in the property is left to his or her heirs or as specified by Will. Compare to Joint Tenants. If tenant in common ownership is desired the deed usually provides, "to Grantees, A and B, as tenants in common and not as joint tenants".

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship

This is how two or more persons may take title to property when the parties want the entire ownership to go to the survivor instead of the heirs of the survivor. On death of a joint tenant with rights of survivorship, the entire interest of the deceased co-tenant goes to the surviving co-tenants. Compare to Tenants in Common. It is common for husband and wife to take title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. If joint tenant with rights of survivorship ownership is desired, the deed usually provides, "to Grantees, A and B, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and not as tenants in common".

Community Property

In community property states, special laws govern how property is owned between husband and wife.

Reservation Clause

This is a provision of a deed where the grantor may reserve some right in the property such as mineral rights.

Exception Clause

This is a clause in a deed were exceptions to title conveyed may be listed. Example, "Less and Except a prior reservation of all oil, gas and mineral rights in the property conveyed."

Subject to Clause

This is a clause in a deed where property useage rights may be states. Example: "Subject to all rights of way, easements and protective covenants of record".

Execution and Acknowledgments

Execution

A deed must be in writing and signed by the grantor(s). Generally, deeds conveying a homestead estate must also be signed by the grantor's spouse.

Acknowledgments

In addition to the signature of the grantor(s), deeds must be acknowledged to be recorded and acceptable as evidence of ownership without other proof. Each state has special acknowledgment forms.

Procedural Requirements

Name, Address, phone - The names of the grantor and the grantee should appear on the deed. The address and phone numbers are also usually included.

Recording or Filing Place

Generally, deeds should be recorded in the county in which the real estate is located. Although generally a deed does not have to be recorded to be a valid conveyance, there are practical reasons for recording a deed. Deeds usually do not take effect as to creditors and subsequent purchasers without notice until the instrument is recorded. Thus, unrecorded deeds may be void as to all subsequent creditors and subsequent purchasers without notice until they are filed for record. Recording a deed places subsequent purchasers on constructive notice in that subsequent purchasers are deemed to have actual knowledge of any recorded instrument. Some states are "race-notice" states, which means that the first grantee without notice to record a deed to property will be protected against the interests of other grantees with unrecorded deeds to the same property.

Acceptance and Delivery

Another element of a valid deed is that the deed must be delivered and accepted to be an effective conveyance. Most states assume delivery if the grantee is in possession of the deed. The deed also must be accepted by the grantee. This acceptance does not need to be shown in any formal way, but rather may be by any act, conduct or words showing an intention to accept such as recording the deed.

If the essential elements that make a deed legally effective are missing, a deed may be voided. For example, if a deed is delivered because of duress or undue influence, the deliverer may petition to void the deed on the basis that the offer, acceptance, or delivery was invalid. In some states, a deed in lieu of foreclosure may be voided by the mortgagee if the debtor failed to disclose material facts affecting title to the property.