Arizona real estate is transferred using a legal document called a deed. A deed allows the current owners (grantors) to transfer property to new owners (grantees). Once the deed is signed, it is recorded in the land records of the county where the property is located. To be valid, each deed must meet the requirements of Arizona law.
Our online deed preparation service creates legally compliant Arizona deeds that are attorney-designed to be eligible for recording throughout Arizona. These deeds include:
The names of Arizona deeds are determined by the features of the deed. Three Arizona deed forms are named after the warranty of title that they either provide or don’t provide:
- General Warranty Deed Form – Provides a full warranty of title that gives the most protection to the grantee. The grantor warrants that the grantor has free and clear title to the property, has the right to convey it, and will be legally responsible for all claims involving title to the property, including claims that arise from the actions of prior owners. Sometimes referred to simply as a warranty deed.
- Special Warranty Deed Form – Similar to a general warranty deed, except that the grantor is only responsible for title problems that arose while the grantor owned the property. The grantor is not responsible for title issues relating to prior owners.
- Quitclaim Deed Form – Provides no warranty of title. The grantee takes the property “as is” and cannot sue the grantor if it turns out that there is a problem with title.
Arizona recognizes two other deed forms that are named after their probate avoidance feature:
- Beneficiary Deed – A newer form of deed specifically designed by the Arizona legislature to avoid probate by naming a beneficiary to inherit property at death. Unlike a life estate deed (discussed below), an owner that makes a beneficiary deed forfeits no control during his or her life and can change his or her mind. An Arizona beneficiary deed may also be called a transfer-on-death deed or TOD deed.
- Life Estate Deed Form – An older Arizona deed form developed to avoid probate at death. Unlike a beneficiary deed, a life estate deed forfeits control over the property during life. Although the grantor can retain the right to use the property, the grantor loses the ability to sell, mortgage, or otherwise deal with the property without involving the new owner.
Our deed creation service uses the information you supply in the easy online interview to create the appropriate Arizona deed form for your situation.
Arizona Deed Requirements: Validity and Recording
Each state has its own legal requirements that must be met for a deed to be valid under state law. Each deed should be designed to meet these requirements. In Arizona, the requirements for deeds include:
- The deed must be written, notarized, and delivered to the grantee. R.S. § 33-401.
- The deed must contain the right vesting language to transfer the property to the beneficiaries using the right warranty of title. R.S. § 33-402.
- The deed should specify how multiple owners will hold title to the property.
- The deed must contain a valid legal description to adequately describe the property.
- The deed must be formatted correctly under the requirement for recorded documents, which include:
- Half-inch margins on all pages;
- At least a two-inch margin on the first page;
- Paper no greater than legal size (although letter size is fine and usually the best choice);
- At least 10-point font;
- A caption or title that states the type of instrument (Quitclaim Deed, Special Warranty Deed, etc.); and
- With few exceptions, original signatures. R.S. § 11-480.
- If the property is being transferred to or from a trust the deed must include the name and addresses of the trust beneficiaries, the name of the trust, and the recording information for the Certification of Trust. R.S. § 33-404.
Arizona has no documentary stamp tax or other form of real estate transfer tax, but recording fees must be paid with the transfer. Recording fees start at $15.00 per deed. A.R.S. § 11-475.
Spousal Ownership of Arizona Real Estate
Arizona is one of only nine community property states. As a community property state, Arizona law treats a married couple as a single economic unit. Almost all property acquired during the marriage is treated as belonging to both spouses, even if only one spouse is listed on the property. Classifying the property as community property has several consequences:
- Each spouse is considered to own an undivided interest in the property.
- Neither spouse can convey the property by selling his or her interest. To transfer or mortgage the property, both spouses must join on the conveyance or mortgage.
- Upon the death of a spouse, the assets owned by the deceased spouse must go through probate (unless the property is held as community property with right of survivorship, as discussed below).
In the deed preparation context, this means that a married person cannot create a valid deed to community property without the joinder of his or her spouse. A.R.S. § 33-452.
Arizona law also gives special protection for property that a married couple owns as a marital home and uses as a primary residence (homestead). One spouse cannot convey homestead property without the consent of the other spouse. A.R.S. § 33-453.
Forms of Co-Ownership of Arizona Real Estate
Arizona recognizes several ways in which multiple owners can hold title to Arizona real estate. Unmarried owners usually hold title in one of three ways.
- Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship – Each owner is treated as owning an undivided in interest in the property as a whole. On the death of an owner, the deceased owner’s interest passes to the other owner in proportion to their ownership. Probate is not required.
- Tenancy in Common – Each owner is treated as owning an undivided interest in the property as a whole (same as joint tenancy), but there is no right of survivorship. On the death of an owner, his or her interest passes to his or her estate, not to the surviving owners.
Married couples also have additional options. As mentioned above, property acquired during the marriage is usually considered to be owned by both spouses as community property. By default, community property is held without right of survivorship, meaning that each spouse’s interest must go through probate when the spouse dies. The spouses can change this by creating community property with right of survivorship. Adding the right of survivorship allows a deceased spouse’s interest to pass to the surviving spouse, avoiding the need for probate.
How to Transfer Arizona Real Estate
Arizona real estate is transferred by deed. The process involves four general steps:
- Locate the Prior Deed to the Property. The prior deed to the property includes important information you need to prepare your deed, such as the legal description, the identity of the current owners, and how the current owners’ names are worded.
- Get a New Deed to the Property. Our online deed preparation service can create a new deed to the property. Our interview collects the information needed to create the deed using an online interview. Each deed created by our service is attorney-designed to be ready for filing in all Arizona counties.
- Sign and Notarize the New Deed. The new deed must be signed by the grantors with signatures notarized. In some situations, the grantees may also need to sign documents.
- Record the New Deed in the Land Records. The deed should be recorded in the land records of the county where the property is located as soon as possible after the deed is signed and notarized.
The last few steps are explained in more detail in the instructions (Next Steps) that come with each deed created by our deed preparation service.