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Deeds are legal documents which are used to legally transfer part or all of a property from one party or entity to another. A grantor signs the deed over to a grantee, transferring real estate as a result.

Generally, a deed should be notarized and later recorded at the county record’s office in the county where the property resides.

A number of types of deeds are commonly used to transfer partial or whole real estate title. A quitclaim deed can be used, a warranty deed, a grant deed, a tax deed, and a special warranty deed, as well as several other lesser used deed varieties.

A deed of trust is similar to a mortgage and does not transfer real estate title.  Deeds of trust often create confusion by use of the word deed, since they are not deeds that transfer title to property at all.

There are legal differences between a deed of trust and a mortgage, the most pronounced of which are different methods used to foreclose on property, but both essentially create liens on property created by a loan secured by that property, rather than a deed used to transfer such property.

A quitclaim deed transfers whatever rights the existing owner or grantor has in the real estate.  It includes no guarantees to clear title.

Quitclaims provide no guarantees that title is clear of encumbrances, such as tax liens, mortgage liens, mechanics liens, etc, or that there are no unidentified owners on title in addition to the grantor. Whatever the grantor owns is what the grantee receives.

Quitclaim deeds are the easiest, fastest, and lowest cost deeds to utilize, and require little professional help, described in greater detail in the section on how quitclaim deeds work. Quitclaim deeds are often referred to as quick claim deeds or quit deeds erroneously.

A warranty deed is nearly identical to a grant deed. Warranty deeds and grant deeds include warranties as to what level of title a grantee will receive, and are usually issued using a lawyer or title company, depending where the property resides.

A warranty deed comes with six covenants:  covenant of seisin, showing the owner has ownership and control of the property, covenant of right to convey, the owner has the right to transfer his or her interest in the property, covenant against encumbrances, indicating that title comes with no encumbrances such as loans or other liens, covenant of quiet enjoyment, other parties have no legal claim to the property, covenant of warranty, the owner will guarantee the grantee’s rights if a third party tries to file a claim against the property, and covenant of further assurances, indicating the owner will do whatever is reasonable to perfect title if there is an imperfection found after the conveyance.

If purchasing real estate using a realtor and escrow process, you generally get a warranty deed or grant deed, and title insurance as a further guarantee of clear title. The title search, title insurance, escrow process, and the like all cost time and expense when using a warranty or grant deed.

Two major types of warranty deed exist, general warranty deeds and special warranty deeds. A general warranty deed has greater protections or warranties than a special warranty deed.

A tax deed is often utilized by tax authorities to transfer real estate. State and local tax authorities, as well as the IRS may place a tax lien on a property, and eventually, if the taxes are not paid, can transfer title to the real estate using the tax lien.

The most common use for tax liens is when a county liens a property for unpaid property taxes. States like California auction real estate with unpaid county property taxes after a predetermined number of years.

Other states like Arizona sell tax liens to private investors in tax lien auctions, rather than transferring the property itself.

The new lien owner can then obtain the property if the taxes, now due the investor, stay unpaid for a predetermined period of time.

There are other types of deeds, less often used. One is a trustee deed. A trustee deed is used to transfer title when the grantor is a trust. Another one is a sheriffs deed. Sheriff’s deeds are used to transfer title when property is transferred to satisfy a judgment where monies are owed.

A gift deed is used when a property is gifted with no consideration in exchange for the property. A deed in lieu of foreclosure can be used to convey property to a lender to help avoid foreclosure. An executor deed or administrator deed can be used in probate or inheritance situations.

While quitclaim deeds offer less guarantees, they are very simple, quick, and inexpensive to use. They are best suited for certain types of transactions, when the parties know each other or have a close association.

Some examples of outstanding uses for quitclaim deeds include adding a spouse to title after marriage, or removing a spouse from title due to divorce, changing title vesting from tenants in common to community property or another form of title vesting, transferring a piece of real estate to a family member or investment partner, inheritance or probate conveyances, and transfers from individual ownership into a trust or corporation.

Warranty deeds and grant deeds are best suited for purchases from an unknown party, where more guarantees are desired to ensure the grantee is purchasing exactly what they think the are purchasing. The section on common uses for quitclaim deeds provides more information on applications for quitclaims.

Attention! We are not attorneys and we are not lawyers. We cannot represent customers, select legal forms, or give advice on rights or laws. The article provided is for information ONLY and is NOT a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.