Deed

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A deed is a legal document that grants its holder ownership of a piece of real estate or other assets, such as an automobile. A deed transfers the title of an asset to a new owner, and is usually recorded in the local county clerk’s office (see here to check out the online recording system in New York State Tompkins County’s clerk’s office). In a real-estate transaction, a deed is usually delivered at closing. Different jurisdiction requires different elements in a valid deed. The common elements are the names of the grantor and the grantee, property’s legal description, affidavit of consideration, warranties, and signature requirements.

Different deeds contain different warranties of title. There are warranty deed, special warrant deed, bargain and sale deed, and quitclaim deed.

  • Warranty Deed: a deed provides full warranties from the grantor to the grantee. Meaning the seller has good title, and the property is free from claims or encumbrances
  • Special Warranty Deed: a deed which does not warrant any title matter arising prior to the seller’s ownership of the property. For example, a title defect arose before the seller bought a house, and the seller did not discover the defect. If the seller sells the house to a buyer for a Special Warranty Deed, the buyer cannot sue the seller for the title defect. Special warranty deed is very common on commercial purchase and sale transactions, because parties often rely on title insurance rather than warranties of the seller.
  • Bargain and Sale Deed: a deed that makes no warranties that the property has clean title. This form of deed is commonly used by governmental entities.
  • Quitclaim Deed: a deed that also makes no warranties that the property has clean title. In the granting clause of the deed, it usually states that the grantor “quitclaims” to the grantee. When people see a quitclaim deed, they usually assume there’s something wrong with the title of the deed. Quitclaim deeds are often used to transfer title between family members.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]