What is an Alaska General Warranty Deed Form?
An Alaska general warranty deed form—or just warranty deed—conveys Alaska real estate with full warranty of title.1 That means the current owner (the grantor listed in the deed) guarantees that the property’s title is free of defects, including unpaid tax liabilities that are attached to the property, undisclosed liens, or boundary line disputes.
A general warranty deed form’s guaranty covers the period when the current owner owned the property and any time prior. When conveying property via an Alaska warranty deed, a current owner extends an enforceable promise that the property’s title is free of defects arising at any time up until the conveyance.
Unless a deed expressly provides otherwise, Alaska law assumes that warranty deeds convey the current owner’s full, undivided title to the new owner (the grantee in the current deed).2 When a warranty deed includes the model, statutory vesting language, the current owner conveys the entire interest in the property, and three covenants of title—discussed below—are deemed to have been included within the deed.3
Other Names for an Alaska General Warranty Deed Form
The Alaska statute authorizing general warranty deeds uses the condensed term warranty deed.4 General warranty deed and warranty deed describe essentially the same concept, though the word general differentiates warranty deeds from other deed forms—like special warranty deeds—that provide a less comprehensive warranty of title.
The term statutory warranty deed sometimes describes a deed based on the same basic concept. The distinction is that a statutory warranty deed incorporates model language published by the relevant state’s legislature. When a deed includes the statutory language, the deed is assumed to include the covenants specified by law. In Alaska and many other states, a statutory warranty deed is a general warranty deed—but an Alaska general warranty deed can include additional covenants beyond the specific covenants implied by Alaska’s statute.5 To do so, the additional covenants must be written into the deed explicitly.
How do Alaska General Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
Several types of deeds are used in Alaska. Alaska law assumes that warranty deeds include three related warranties—which incorporate five of the six common law covenants of title.6 A real estate owner signing an Alaska warranty deed guarantees that:
- When signing the deed, the property owner held complete title to the property and had the legal right and authority to transfer the property (under common law, the covenant of seisin and covenant of right to convey);
- The property is free from any liens or title defects (under common law, the covenant against encumbrances); and
- No future claimant will assert a title superior to the title conveyed by the current owner, and—if any such claim emerges—the current owner will legally defend the new owner’s title (under common law, the covenant of quiet enjoyment and covenant of warranty).
Common law warranty of title also incorporates a covenant of further assurance—the current owner’s promise to take any future actions necessary to preserve the new owner’s title. Alaska law does not imply a covenant of further assurance in warranty deeds, and—other than the three statutory covenants—Alaska law will not imply any guarantees not expressly included within a deed.7 However, the parties to a warranty deed can explicitly include a covenant of further assurance—or other warranties—within the deed.8
The parties to a transfer can modify an Alaska warranty deed to account for conditions known to the current owner and disclosed to the new owner. To accomplish this, a drafter typically indicates that the current owner transfers the property or provides a warranty subject to the identified condition. For instance, a deed might state that a transfer is made subject to an outstanding lien or potential litigation.9
Due to the warranties included within an Alaska warranty deed, the current owner bears the risk of a title defect. If another claimant later asserts superior title to the property, the new owner can sue the current owner to cover the loss. To mitigate the risk, transactions involving general warranty deeds often involve the purchase of title insurance—under which an insurance company inspects the property’s title and agrees to accept the risk of unclear title in exchange for a premium payment.
Alaska Warranty Deed Form vs. Alaska Quitclaim Deed Form
For risk allocation purposes, the inverse of an Alaska general warranty deed is an Alaska quitclaim deed form. When signing a quitclaim deed, a current owner provides no warranty of title.10 A quitclaim deed conveys to the new owner whatever title the current owner holds—with no assurance that title is clear or that the current owner holds lawful title at all.11 The new owner shoulders the entire risk of title defects.
Alaska Warranty Deed Form vs. Alaska Special Warranty Deed Form
An Alaska Special warranty deed form—also called a limited warranty deed or grant deed—represents a middle ground for risk allocation. When signing an Alaska special warranty deed, the real estate’s current owner warrants clear title for the period while the current owner owned the property—but not for the period before the current owner took title. Thus, the current owner bears the risk of title defects that arose during the current owner’s ownership period, and the new owner assumes the risk for anything arising earlier.
Example: Seller conveys Alaska real estate to Buyer under a special warranty deed. Several months after the conveyance, Neighbor sues Buyer over an addition built by Seller, which Neighbor contends encroaches on Neighbor’s property. Seller must defend against Neighbor’s claim and make Buyer whole for any losses Buyer sustains resulting from Neighbor’s claim. If Seller’s predecessor had constructed the addition and Seller was unaware of the dispute, Seller would not have had responsibility for Neighbor’s claim. If Seller has issued a general warranty deed, Seller would be responsible for Neighbor’s claim regardless of when it arose.
Unlike general warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds, Alaska does not have statutory model language for special warranty deeds. An Alaska special warranty deed must include language unambiguously identifying the warranties provided under the deed and the time to which the warranties apply.
Alaska Warranty Deed Form vs. Alaska Life Estate Deed Form
While warranty, special warranty, and quitclaim deeds are differentiated based on the warranties provided, an Alaska life estate deed is named after its transfer-on-death feature. A life estate deed conveys title to a life estate holder for the remainder of the life estate holder’s life—and then to a remainderman who takes title upon the life estate holder’s death. An owner of Alaska real estate can execute a life estate deed reserving a life estate to him or herself—and naming a remainderman to receive title after the current owner’s death.12
Alaska Warranty Deed Form vs. Alaska Transfer-on-Death Deed Form
An Alaska transfer on death deed form—also called a TOD deed or beneficiary deed—serves a purpose similar to life estate deeds but with a key distinction: An Alaska TOD deed is revocable and does not become effective until the current owner’s death,13 so the property owner retains the right to transfer the property—and to generally use the property as he or she pleases—for the rest of the owner’s life.14 Then, when the current owner dies, the TOD deed takes effect and automatically transfers the property to the named beneficiary with no need for probate.15
Alaska Warranty Deed Form vs. Other Types of Alaska Deeds
Alaska law also recognizes other deed forms named according to their purposes. For example, executor’s deeds are signed by a deceased person’s executor—which must be duly appointed in a probate proceeding—to convey estate property to the deceased person’s heir, a purchaser, or other assignee.16
Specialized deed forms recognized in Alaska can vary regarding the warranty of title provided. For instance, an executor’s deed might be a quitclaim deed or a special warranty deed, depending on the circumstances and specific deed language.
Common Uses of Alaska General Warranty Deed Forms
Buyers and sellers typically use Alaska general warranty deeds for arms-length purchases. A buyer who pays good money for real estate will not want to risk a title defect, and a seller unwilling to provide any warranty is less likely to find a willing purchaser. By comparison, owners are less inclined to offer warranty of title—and recipients less likely to insist on a warranty—when no money is changing hands.
Transactions involving general warranty deeds frequently involve title insurance purchased by either buyer or seller—often as a condition of financing. Title insurance—and the title examination that precedes it—protect the current and new owners and finance company if an unknown cloud on title emerges after the conveyance.17
How to Create an Alaska General Warranty Deed
Rather than requiring warranty deeds to enumerate each covenant provided by the current owner, Alaska and many other states provide statutory vesting language that automatically implies warranty of title.18 An Alaska deed that includes the below verbiage is assumed to be a warranty deed.
The grantor [CURRENT OWNER NAME AND RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS] for and in consideration of [CONSIDERATION FOR TRANSFER] in hand paid, conveys and warrants to [NEW OWNER NAME] the following described real estate [VALID REAL ESTATE DESCRIPTION], located in the State of Alaska.
Dated this [DATE]․19
When the deed includes language based on the statutory language, Alaska law implies five of the six covenants associated with full warranty of title under common law—the covenants of seisin, right to convey, non-encumbrance, quiet enjoyment, and warranty—each of which is described above.20 The common law covenant of further assurance is not implied in Alaska warranty deeds that rely on the statutory vesting language.
If the parties to an Alaska warranty deed want to add additional covenants—or omit one or more implied covenants—they are free to do so.21 However, a deed must expressly and unambiguously state any desired covenants. Other than general warranty deeds that include the statutory vesting language, no covenants are implied in an Alaska deed.22
Critically, the statutory vesting language by itself does not create a valid and recordable Alaska deed. Alaska has numerous technical and substantive requirements that must be satisfied for a deed to make an effective conveyance and be eligible for recording in the land records.23 The deed must also include a proper legal description of the property and clearly identify the parties.
Because state real estate systems vary and the language necessary for different forms of deeds can look confusingly similar, deeds must be prepared with precision and careful attention. A deed that fails to meet state specifications may require correction or fail altogether, rendering a conveyance invalid. Imprecise language can result in unintended consequences that lead to legal liability or costly title defects.
- AK ST §34.15.030.
- AK ST §34.15.030(b); AK ST §34.15.070(a).
- AK ST §34.15.030. Under common law, warranty deeds include six covenants of title. Alaska’s warranty deed statute incorporates five of the six common law covenants within its three statutory covenants and omits the sixth common law covenant.
- AK ST §34.15.030(a).
- AK ST §34.15.030(b).
- AK ST §34.15.030(b)(1 – 3).
- AK ST §34.15.080.
- James v. McCombs, 936 P.2d 520 (Alaska 1997).
- James v. McCombs, 936 P.2d 520, 525 (Alaska 1997).
- AK ST §34.15.040.
- AK ST §34.15.050.
- See AK ST §09.45.260.
- AK ST §13.48.020; AK ST §13.48.080.
- AK ST §§13.48.010, et. seq.
- AK ST §13.48.030.
- AK ST §34.25.050.
- See AK ST §21.66.480(6).
- AK ST §34.15.030(a).
- AK ST §34.15.030(a).
- AK ST §34.15.030(a).
- See James v. McCombs, 936 P.2d 520 (Alaska 1997).
- AK ST §34.15.080.
- See, e.g., AK ST §40.17.030; AK ST §34.15.010.