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A deed is a written instrument that transfers or conveys title to real property. Generally, the grantor, who is the owner or the person with a legal interest in the property, conveys his interest to the grantee, who is the person who acquires the interest in the property.

There are several kinds of real property deeds, such as general warranty deeds or quitclaim deeds. Each kind of deed has its own characteristics. Also, in order for a deed to be valid, certain formalities must be observed. Finally, deeds should be recorded in the office of the county recorder of deeds.

Types of Deeds

There are four basic deed types regularly used to convey property in the United States:

  • General warranty deed. This deed contains covenants of title, which are promises by the grantor that he owns the property and that he is conveying his entire interest to the grantee. The grantor warrants or guarantees against any acts or omissions on his part or on the part of any of his predecessors in title that might undermine the quality of the title and interest conveyed.
  • Special warranty deed. This deed also contains covenants of title, but the grantor warrants only against defects that arose through his own acts or omissions, or the acts or omissions of those who hold by, through or under him. Such a deed, therefore, does not warrant against defects or claims against the property that arose prior to the grantor's ownership.
  • Bargain and sale deed. This deed simply recites that consideration (money or something of value) has been paid and purports to convey the described property. The deed contains no express warranties.
  • Quitclaim deed. This deed operates to release all of the right, title and interest of the grantor in the lands described. It also contains no warranties.

Other kinds of deeds exist in certain states or for certain purposes:

  • Transfer-on-death deed. This is a deed made during the lifetime of the property owner. The owner designates a beneficiary, and on the owner's death, the property passes to the beneficiary without the need for probate, by recording a death certificate or an affidavit. This deed is also called a beneficiary deed.
  • Grant deed. This is a deed in which the term ''grant'' is the essential element or operative word of transfer. A grant deed states that one person grants an interest in real property to another.
  • Deed given in a judicial sale. This is a deed given at an execution sale, which is a court-ordered sale resulting from a judgment creditor's lawsuit against the property owner-judgment debtor to collect on a debt. It can also be any other deed executed by a court-appointed or public official. It essentially has the same effect as a quitclaim deed.
  • Deed of trust . This deed takes the place of a mortgage; the property is given as collateral for the owner's loan. In this deed, legal title to real property is placed in the name of a trustee to secure the repayment of money or the performance of other conditions.

Formalities Required for Deeds

All conveyances of land made during the lifetime of the grantor must be in writing in all states. Also, the rules of deed formality require at least the following:

  • An identification of the grantor or grantors who are conveying an interest in property by the deed
  • An identification or description of the grantee or grantees, including their names and, in some states, their addresses
  • Words of conveyance that show that the parties intended to transfer title
  • An adequate description of the land being conveyed, and
  • The signature of the grantor

Also, a deed is not valid as a conveyance until it has been delivered and accepted. The deed must be delivered to the grantee and accepted by the grantee.

Recording Deeds

Although deeds are not required to be acknowledged in order to be valid as between the grantor and grantee, most deeds are acknowledged because it is usually a prerequisite to recording the deeds with the county recorder. An acknowledgment is a statement that an instrument was in fact signed by the person whose signature appears on it. A certificate of acknowledgment is a notary public's formal statement that the person identified the signature on the document as his own in the notary's presence and that the person was the individual who signed the document.

A deed is deemed to be recorded when it has been duly acknowledged or proved and is deposited in the office of the recorder of deeds, with the proper officer, for recording. A deed must be recorded by the county recorder in the county where the subject property is located. Recording is required in order to give notice of the transfer of real property to subsequent buyers and to people with claims against the property.

If you have any questions about real estate deeds, contact a real estate attorney in your area.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What kind of deed gives me the most assurances on the title of real property?
  • What kind of interest does a quitclaim deed convey?
  • Does the grantee have to sign a deed in order for the deed to be valid?
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