What Is a Quitclaim Deed?

Definition & Examples of a Quitclaim Deed

Man handing keys over to a smiling couple
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A quitclaim deed is a way to convey any possible interest that someone has in a property to another person. It doesn't provide any guarantee of ownership, which means it's only useful in limited situations.

Using a quitclaim deed is, essentially, a way to relinquish any claim you have to a piece of property in order to release it to someone else. They are common in transfers between family members, divorces, and other title clearing actions. Learn how quitclaim deeds work and when they might be useful.

What Is a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed transfers or "quits" any interest in real property. The grantor—the individual transferring interest in a property—is publicly and legally declaring that, if they do have any ownership in the property, they are passing it to the grantee.

A grantor may not be in the title at all and can transfer an acquired interest. For example, a grantor married to the owner of a property might sign and record a quitclaim deed to transfer any interest the grantor may have acquired in the property to the spouse, who would be referred to as the grantee.

Quitclaim deeds only apply to whatever interest a grantor owns at the time of the transfer. For example, if a grantor acquires rights to a property in question at a later date, the previous quitclaim deed would have no impact.

A quitclaim deed does not guarantee that a grantor owns any real interest in a property or the status of the title.

Quitclaim deeds are not used for sales, which utilize warranty deeds or grant deeds. There also are circumstances that might call for an interspousal transfer deed in lieu of a quitclaim deed. But they can be helpful in certain scenarios.

How a Quitclaim Deed Works

Quitclaim deeds are useful in situations where a straightforward transfer of ownership is needed. Divorce, for example, is one of the principal reasons for filing a quitclaim deed. If a couple owns a home jointly, the spouse not keeping the home would need to sign a quitclaim deed and transfer interest in the property to the spouse awarded the home in the divorce.

This can also apply to situations when a person is simply passing a house to another relative. For instance, if a father wants to grant a house to his son without any expectation of payment, he could sign a quitclaim deed.

There are also cases in which you could run into issues with a title that raise questions of whether another person has ownership. Lawyers may seek to have that person sign a quitclaim deed to relinquish any possible rights they may have to the property.

A quitclaim deed is dangerous if you don't know anything about the person giving you the property. You should be sure that a person actually has rights to a property before signing it over with a quitclaim deed.

Mortgage Impact

A quitclaim deed does not remove a borrower's name from a mortgage nor relieve a borrower from responsibility for payment of a mortgage. Only a refinance, a payoff of the mortgage, or sale of the property which results in a payoff of the mortgage relieves a borrower from the obligation.

How to Prepare a Quitclaim Deed

You can download a quitclaim deed from many websites, but if you want 100% confidence that your quitclaim deed was prepared properly and that your interests are protected, it is wise to consult with a lawyer or other legal professional specializing in real estate. You will also need to have the deed notarized and recorded in the county in which the property is located.

Quitclaim Deed vs. Interspousal Transfer Deed

Interspousal transfer deeds are similar to quitclaim deeds and relinquish any further claim of community property. It can be signed by a current spouse or a spouse in the midst of a separation or going through final divorce proceedings. These also are commonly used if one spouse has better credit than the other and they want to refinance the home. In this case, the spouse with poor credit would transfer a claim to the spouse with better credit.

There is no state or city transfer tax due on a property transferred by an interspousal transfer deed. The interspousal transfer also passes any mortgage obligations along with ownership.

In a divorce, how ownership of a property is split can vary from case to case, but it's common for the individual keeping the home to refinance and buy out the ex-spouse. This kind of transfer cannot be handled with a simple quitclaim deed or interspousal transfer deed.

Quitclaim Deed vs. Grant Deed

In many cases, a quitclaim deed is not sufficient for transferring ownership, because it offers no guarantees. Often, a more firm and declaration of ownership is needed, as is the case with a grant deed.

Unlike a quitclaim deed, a grant deed explicitly promises that the current owner has rights to the property and is transferring them. This guards against any potential title issues that could have happened during the grantor's tenure of ownership. It does not, however, guarantee there are no title issues that occurred outside that ownership period. For that, some states use an even stronger deed, called a warranty deed, along with title insurance.

Grant deeds and warranty deeds are the most common types of deeds used in sales transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • A quitclaim deed is used to relinquish any possible rights someone has to a property.
  • It provides no guarantee that the guarantor actually has rights to the property, nor that the title is free of any other claims.
  • Quitclaim deeds are useful in title-clearing actions or simple transfers between family members or in a divorce.
  • They are not useful in sales or other cases where a more firm guarantee of ownership on the part of the guarantor is needed.

Article Sources

  1. HG.org. "Contracts 101—Warranty vs Quitclaim Deeds." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.

  2. Realtor.com. "When Do You Need to Get a Quitclaim Deed?' Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.

  3. DivorceNet. "Interspousal Transfers Versus Quit Claim Deeds." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.

  4. California State Board of Equalization. "Property Ownership and Deed Recording," Page 7. Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.