What Is a Quitclaim Deed?
If you want to transfer the ownership of property quickly and easily, a quitclaim deed may be the proper way to do it. However, it is only suggested in certain situations. So, we’ll talk about what it is, how it compares to other deeds to transfer property, when to use it and how to fill it out.
A quitclaim deed is a legal document that transfers any interest that a grantor has in the title of real estate to a grantee. In layman’s terms, the grantor is the one who is transferring the property. The grantee is the new recipient. A quitclaim deed does not guarantee that one has an interest in the property. So, it’s akin to saying, “I’m not saying I have an interest in this property. But whatever interest I do have, I give to the grantee.
Quitclaim Deed Limitations
As a general guideline, you cannot convey more than you legally possess. Thus, if the grantor, or the current owner, does have clear title to the property, free of title defects, then a quitclaim deed will typically transfer the property. However, if the grantor lacks clear title to the property, then the quitclaim deed may not effectively transfer property. That is, if you try to grant the full legal title to a piece of real estate to which you do not have clear title, the quitclaim deed will not legally convey the transfer.
The most common use of the quitclaim deed is in divorce cases. One spouse (or former spouse) transfers whatever interest he or she has in his or her (former) personal residence to the other party. People also use them to transfer property to family members, to an LLC or to a living trust.
What if the recipient is not a family member or closely related person or entity? Then in that case, the most common types of deeds include the warranty deed and grant deed.
We often see people refer to the quitclaim deed as a “quit claim” deed or a “quick claim” deed. The one-word version “quitclaim” is the generally accepted standard. We use this term because the grantor uses the document to quit his, her, their, or in the case of a legal entity, its claim to the property.
Quitclaim Deed Recap
- A quitclaim deed conveys whatever interest one has in a property from one to another.
- The quitclaim deed only conveys that which the grantor has. If the grantor does not have legal title to the property, the transfer will not convey more than what the grantor possesses.
- Unlike a warranty deed, the quitclaim deed does provide a promise, assurance, or statement that the grantor is transferring clear title to the property.
Quitclaim Deed vs. Warranty Deed
Both deeds, a quitclaim deed and a warranty deed, transfer interest in a property from one party to another. However, the quitclaim deed does not offer written guarantees that the grantor truly holds valid title to the property in question.
Therefore, as we stated, the quitclaim deed usually transfers title of property to family members. After a divorce decree, this transfer is to former family members. It is also used to transfer title to an LLC or trust in which the grantor has an interest. If one transfers property to an unrelated party, professionals rarely use quitclaim deeds.
In other words, the warranty deed offers more legal protection to the property recipient than does the quitclaim deed. This is because the warranty deed offers assurances that the party transferring the property has the legal right to do so.
A warranty deed promises that the one who transfers property has legal title to the property and has the right to sell it. Included in the warranty deed are legal protections for the buyer. This includes reimbursement if the property has undisclosed title defects. So, this type of deed gives assurances that there will not be any pre-existing mortgages or tax or creditor liens on the property upon transfer.
Do You Need a Quitclaim Deed?
If you need a quitclaim deed, you can consult with one of our attorneys. For a fee, our attorneys can discuss and prepare your quitclaim deed. To do so, you can call or complete a consultation form on this page.
How to File a Quitclaim Deed
So, how do you file a quitclaim deed? To record or file a quitclaim deed, first you need to complete the document properly. You typically enter the name and address of the grantor. Again, the grantor is the one transferring the property. You also enter the name and address of the grantee. The grantee is the new property recipient. In some states you may also indicate if the property is the homestead or personal residence of the grantor.
In many states, if you are one transferring the property, your spouse must also sign the deed. This is the case even if your spouse is not on the title to the property. In other words, if you are married, in many states, as the saying goes, “it takes one to buy and two to sell.”
So, the grantor, and the grantor’s spouse, if applicable, sign the quitclaim deed. You do this and have your signature(s) notarized by a licensed notary public.
Recording the Deed
Finally, you will need to record the quitclaim deed in the county recorder’s office in the county where the property is located. Some jurisdictions call this office the “recorder of deeds,” “deeds registry,” “clerk or courts,” “recorder’s office,” “deed’s office,” “county comptroller’s office,” “land registry office,” etc.
You will typically pay a fee to the recorder’s office to file the document. The fee varies by jurisdiction. Common variances in fees may depend upon if the grantee is or is not a related party. If property has a mortgage on it, the fee may be higher in some counties.
The typical procedure is that you record the document, and the recorder mails you the original. Alternatively, in many cases, you can or must record the document electronically instead of recording a physical copy.
Now, it is essential that you draft the quitclaim deed in the proper format. The recorder may accept the document for recording even if you wrongly completed the document. The recorder accepting and recording the document does not validate its authenticity.
What Goes on the Deed?
Now it varies state to state and county to county but here are some typical requirements for a quitclaim deed:
- Grantor’s name and address (the one transferring the property)
- Grantee’s name and address (the one receiving the property)
- Grantor’s signature (grantee’s signature not needed)
- The signature of two witnesses
- Plus, the signature and appropriate seal of a notary public or other officer authorized to take acknowledgments or proof of the identity of the grantor.
- The person’s name and address who prepared document
Document Preparation Services
Some organizations sell quitclaim deed forms. You fill out the form on paper or you fill it out online and print the document. These services often offer the document costs lower than hiring a professional.
Are you 100% certain that you know how to complete and file the form properly? Then these services might work for you. However, keep in mind, this document is for you to transfer an asset that may be quite valuable. If the document is not properly completed or filed, the legal consequences and costs for such errors could be astronomical. So, that is why many people choose to consult an attorney or hire the attorney to complete the deed.
Divorce and Quitclaim Deeds
As we discussed, quitclaim deeds are often used in divorce settlements. That is, a former spouse transfers property to the other former spouse.
Thus, the quitclaim deed conveys all interest the ex-spouse has in the property to the other ex-spouse. Therefore, the act fulfills the judge’s terms of the divorce settlement. Again, the spouse that is transferring the property signs the deed. The recipient spouse does not sign.-–
Typically, the fee to record quitclaim deed in divorce settlement is less than the fee for transferring to a non-associated third party.
What if the Property Has Mortgage?
What if there is a mortgage recorded against the property? Can you still use a quitclaim deed? Yes, you can still transfer a mortgaged property using a quitclaim deed. However, the mortgage will still be attached to the property.
That is, unless the lender otherwise agrees in writing, the one who transferred the property still bears the responsibility to pay the mortgage. If the mortgage has a due-on-sale clause, like most mortgages do, the lender could order the immediate payoff of the entire mortgage.
In our experience, though, we rarely see the lender force the payoff of the mortgage. This is especially the case when the grantee makes the payments on time. If needed, the grantee can refinance, get a new loan, and pay off the existing mortgage.
What About Using a Quitclaim Deed After Death?
Can you use a quitclaim deed for a person after he or she is deceased? The answer is “no.” If the title to a property is in a person’s name and that person dies, the transfer generally requires a court order. If, prior to death, the titleholder transferred the property to an instrument such as a living trust, the terms of the trust dictate the interest in the property.
Suppose, prior to death, a titleholder legally executed a quitclaim deed that was not yet recorded. The deed is typically valid. Someone does, however, need to record the deed.
There is another option in some states that we will mention here. We call this “ladybird deed.” A ladybird deed holds the property in the name of the grantor during his or her lifetime. Then, up on death, the title transfers to the designated grantee(s). Ladybird deeds are currently only valid in five states; Florida, Michigan, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
How Much Does a Quitclaim Deed Cost
If you prepare the deed yourself, you need to cover the recording fees. When you have an attorney prepare it for you, the cost is typically in the hundreds of dollars plus the recording fee.
If you are not experienced in the preparation of quitclaim deeds, hiring an attorney is certainly something to consider. The cost of making a mistake could be in the thousands, tens of thousands of or even hundreds of thousands dollars in litigation expenses. So, if you are not completely confident, hire an attorney to draft the deed on your behalf.
Quitclaim Deed FAQs
- How do quit claim deeds work?
A quitclaim deed conveys or transfers any interest one might have in a property from a grantor (transferor) to a grantee (recipient). It does not warrant that the grantor has a legal interest in the property. Unless the grantor holds valid title to the property, the grantee may wind up with nothing of value.First, one properly completes the quitclaim deed. Then, grantor or grantors execute (sign) the quitclaim deed. The signature is or signatures are notarized and/or witnessed. Then someone publicly records the deed in the recorder’s office of the jurisdiction where the property is located.
- When do you use a quitclaim deed?
People most often use quitclaim deeds to transfer real estate to family members, as part of a divorce decree or to convey title to one’s own trust or LLC.
- What are the downsides or disadvantages of quitclaim deeds?
A disadvantage of the quit claim deed is that it does not give warranties to the buyer or property recipient that the grantor actually has clear title to the property. Perhaps the grantee does not have an interest in the property at all. That is why an unrelated third party buyer should not allow the seller to transfer the property using a quitclaim deed.
- Does a quitclaim deed transfer ownership?
A quitclaim deed only transfers real estate ownership if the person who executed the document actually has valid ownership in the property. That is, the value that the quitclaim transfers is limited to the value that the transferee had before executing the document. If there are title defaults, the recipient will inherit those same defaults.
- When you sell your house, can you use a quit claim deed?
Yes you can. But, a title insurance company will rarely insure such a transfer. So, that is why it is rarely used when a title company is involved.