Property Deeds

Property deeds transfer property ownership between parties. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to property deeds, and understanding your choices can make a big difference down the line. Below, we’ve answered questions regarding some common types of property deeds.

Want to talk to a licensed attorney instead? Get Law on Call today for only $9 a month.

Get Started

What Are Property Deeds?

A property deed is a document that transfers real property (land and/or buildings) to a new owner. The seller is known as the “grantor” and the buyer is known as the “grantee.” Often referred to as being an “instrument of transfer,” a property deed needs to be recorded with the county recorder in the county where the property is located.

There are many types of property deeds. On this page, we’ll discuss the four general types of property deeds used to convey land real estate transactions: warranty deeds, special warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, and transfer on death deeds.

Not the legal subject you’re looking for? Visit our Legal Topics page for our full list of free resources.

What Content Should a Deed Contain?

Property deeds must contain certain content in order to be valid. Specifics may vary by state and situation, but property deeds typically contain the following components:

  • Amount of consideration
    Consideration is what’s given up by each party entering a contract. For example, in a typical real estate deal, the seller’s consideration is the property, and the buyer’s consideration is money. In most states, deeds do not have to list an actual purchase price, so many deeds state the consideration as $10 to avoid listing the purchase price. (This is relatively standard practice, though not much is gained from it; you’ll owe the regular taxes regardless.)
  • Names and addresses
    Include full names and permanent addresses of the grantor and grantee.
  • Street address
    The address listed should be the one the property is commonly known by. The property’s city and county must be included on the deed as well.
  • Parcel number
    A property’s parcel number is assigned by the local tax assessor. It is used to further identify a property.
  • Legal description of the property
    A property’s legal description is a unique identifier that indicates where a property’s boundaries lie. In many cases, the legal description can be written exactly as it appears on the property’s most recent deed.
  • Signature
    Grantors must sign property deeds in order for them to be valid. A witness or witnesses may be required to sign, as well. Grantees are generally not required to sign.
  • Notary acknowledgment
    Deeds must be notarized prior to being recorded.

Deeds vs. Titles

Titles and deeds are often conflated as the terms both have to do with property ownership. However, they differ distinctly.

Title indicates ownership. It is a concept, not a document. On the other hand, a deed is a physical document, the vehicle through which property is transferred. If someone is a titleholder, they own the property in question. But they only own the property because a deed transferred ownership to them.

While title itself is not a document, title history is often recorded in a “title abstract,” which details a property’s past and current owners.

Preparing a property deed can be an intimidating process.

Have questions? We can help. Want an attorney to assist with drafting or review? We can do that, too. Learn More

Types of Property Deeds

When transferring property, there are several types of deeds to choose from. Keep reading to find out which one might be right for you.

What is a warranty deed?

The most common type of property deed is a warranty deed (sometimes called a general warranty deed). Warranty deeds are often the best option for grantees, as they expressly guarantee the grantor has good, clear title. Warranty deeds protect against a variety of defects, whether the defects were caused by the grantor or someone else, though the following warranties:

  • Seisin: the grantor warrants they own the property and the legal right to immediate possession of it
  • Quiet Enjoyment: indicates the grantee will have quiet possession of the property and will not be disturbed even if the grantor had a defective title
  • Right to Convey: indicates the grantor has the lawful right to convey (transfer) the property
  • Freedom from Encumbrances: the grantor warrants that the property is free of liens or encumbrances (claims against a property by a non-owner), except as specifically stated in the deed
  • Defense of Title Against All Claims: indicates the grantor will defend the title of the property and the grantee against all claims

What is a special warranty deed?

The warranties in a special warranty deed are similar to those in a general warranty deed with one difference: The grantor states that the property is free from all encumbrances made by that grantor. As such, the grantor’s warranty is limited to defects or encumbrances caused by that grantor’s acts or omissions, or those occurring through or under that grantor. It does not warrant against defects arising from someone prior to the grantor’s ownership.

If a defect exists due to events that occurred while the property was in the hands of a prior titleholder, the grantee will have to look to any warranties contained in the prior deed. The grantee will not be able to recover against the immediate grantor.

What is a quitclaim deed?

A quitclaim deed transfers a grantor’s complete interest in a property to a grantee, but does not warrant the grantor’s interest, if any. It doesn’t guarantee the title is even valid. In other words, a quitclaim deed does not offer a guarantee to the title of the property. As a result, a quitclaim deed can be risky and less preferable to the grantee than a warranty deed.

There are situations where quitclaim deeds are useful, however. The most common ones include clearing up title problems, transferring property between divorcing spouses, and transactions between friends or family.

What is a transfer on death deed?

A transfer on death deed is an effective estate planning tool allowed in over half of U.S. states, including Arizona and Utah. It allows the grantor to maintain possession of the property during their life, then pass it to a beneficiary outside of probate after the grantor’s death. If the transfer were part of a will instead, it would need to go through probate.

Transfer on death deeds are revocable and can be canceled at any time prior to the grantor’s death. Note that if someone has both a transfer on death deed and a will that address the same property, the transfer on death deed supersedes the will.

To effectuate the transfer on death deed and claim the property after the grantor’s death, the beneficiary needs to bring a copy of the deed to the county recorder’s office along with an affidavit stating that the grantor has died. In some states, a death certificate may be required. The clerk will then record the deed.

Transfer on Death Deeds with Multiple Owners

Transferring one person’s property interest in a jointly-owned property can be difficult. Depending on how the property is owned, it may not be possible at all. It may need to be an all or nothing transaction.

The difference comes down to “right of survivorship.” Having right of survivorship means that if one owner dies, their property interest automatically transfers to the other owners.

Consider these multiple-owner arrangements when determining if transfer on death is possible for a given situation:

  • Tenancy in Common
    If the co-owners are tenants in common, there is not an inherent right of survivorship. Owners can do whatever they want with their interest in the property. This is true even if one party owns more interest in the property than another.
  • Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship
    Joint tenancy has a right of survivoship that supersedes a transfer on death deed. If the co-owners are joint tenants, it can be difficult to transfer interest upon death except to the other joint tenants. However, a transfer on death deed can be utilized in a situation where all joint tenants execute a transfer on death deed to the same person.

New Here?

Sign Up Today

Have an account?

Request Legal Work