What Is a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed is a legal document used to transfer property ownership from one owner (the grantor) to another (the grantee). (It’s often mispronounced as “quick claim deed.”) Typically, no money exchanges hands during these real estate transactions. With a quitclaim deed, the grantee can only claim any ownership interest the grantor has at the time of transfer—which can be no ownership or interest. Since some properties may not have a clear title, the quitclaim deed offers no guarantees or warranties, as well as no recourse for the grantee if title issues come up later. The property transfer is based on trust among the grantor and grantee.  
 
For example, if two brothers jointly own a restaurant, one of them can only transfer his half of the ownership. If he wishes to get out of the business, he may want to quickly and easily transfer his ownership to his brother without going through a laborious sale process—making a quitclaim deed the easiest option.

When to Use a Quitclaim Deed

This type of deed is a useful way to change or correct mistakes on a title without paying any fees. A quitclaim deed doesn’t affect any mortgage payments—the grantor is still responsible for any mortgage agreements.
Here are some examples of when a quitclaim deed might be used: 

  • Family transfers: Quitclaim deeds make it easy to transfer ownership to parents or children, siblings, or other closely related family members.
  • Marriage or divorce: The property owner can use a quitclaim to add a new spouse or remove an ex-spouse from the property title.
  • Owner name change: When the owner’s name changes, they must change the deed information so that the name change is reflected on the title.
  • Transferring ownership to a business: Transferring real property to corporations and LLCs is a common method of protecting those assets from creditors, or limiting personal liability.  
  • Transferring ownership to a trust: If there’s a property you hope to pass down through the generations, a good first step is a quitclaim deed transferring it into a trust.
  • Removing a title cloud: Title companies may find a “cloud” during a title search. This means a third party may have an interest in the property which has not been accounted for, causing a possible break in the chain of title. The title insurance company will require that party to quitclaim their interest in the property before issuing a policy. 
  • Gifts: Quitclaim deeds can be used to give property to family and friends—although make sure to check with a lawyer.
  • Error correction: Misspelled names or other minor errors can be corrected using a quitclaim deed.

Quitclaim Deed vs. Warranty Deed

When it comes to real estate property, there are several types of deeds. A quitclaim deed is also known as a non-warranty deed: There is no title insurance or title search used during the transfer, and money rarely changes hands. In some cases, it is possible that the grantor does not actually own the property. 

Conversely, a general warranty deed guarantees that there are no parties outside of the seller which can claim a property as theirs. Nor are there any previous debts or liens against the property, with the exception of those already informed to the buyer. The warranty deed provides the grantee protections that quitclaim deeds do not.  

Most notably, a warranty deed is transferred after a title search has been conducted, so the buyers can be certain the property has a clean title history. Title insurance can be purchased with a warranty deed, too, and it protects the buyer if there are complications thereafter. 

With a general warranty deed, the seller promises:

  • They have the right to convey the property
  • They can and will defend the property title against claims
  • They have ownership of the property
  • There are no encumbrances against the property unless stated otherwise in the deed.

How to Create a Quitclaim Deed 

A quitclaim deed form isn’t binding unless it’s in writing. The document includes the legal description of the property, county, date of transfer, and names of grantor and grantee—and the price paid, if any. (Again, quitclaim deeds aren’t generally used when selling real estate.)

It’s essential that the grantor signs the notarized quitclaim form. Depending on the state, witnesses may be required; they may require the new owner to sign, too. In most states, the property deed must be recorded with the appropriate county clerk office.

Taxes and Quitclaim Deeds

Even though quitclaim deeds aren’t typically used for traditional real estate transfers, there may be tax implications for the grantor or grantee. For example, the person giving away the property may be required to pay a gift tax—although quitclaim deeds are not generally taxable when the property is transferred among spouses. When a property is put into a living trust, the Internal Revenue Service will calculate the taxable amount, if any.

There are no tax requirements if the property is transferred to charity, as long as it has a clean title history.

How Does a Quitclaim Deed Affect Existing Mortgages? 

Most properties transferred via quitclaim do not have an outstanding mortgage. Nonetheless, it is certainly possible for a grantor to carry a mortgage and file a quitclaim deed. In these cases, the grantor remains legally liable for the mortgage, even after the ownership is transferred.

For example, it’s common for divorcing spouses to use a quitclaim deed to transfer the property to the spouse who intends to keep the property. However, this doesn’t eliminate either spouse’s name from the mortgage, assuming there is one, so they’re both still liable for the balance. The grantee can either assume the mortgage with the lender or refinance the property and pay off the initial loan.

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