How a California Grant Deed Form Works
A California grant deed form is a type of deed that conveys property from the prior owner to the new owner with a limited warranty of title. The warranty of title is limited in the sense that it only covers the period when the prior owner owned the real estate. When the prior owner signs a grant deed, he or she guarantees that he or she has done nothing that would cause title issues, but makes no promises about actions taken by earlier owners.
Grant deeds also convey after-acquired title to the California real estate. If the prior owner does not have good title to the property but later acquires title, the title that the transferor later obtains will automatically pass to the transferee. There is no need for a new conveyance.
Other Names for California Grant Deeds
The limited warranty of title provided by a California grant deed form is similar to the limited warranty of title provided in other states. In some states, deeds that convey a limited warranty of title are called special warranty deeds or limited warranty deeds. In other states, they may be referred to as statutory warranty deeds or covenant deeds. Each of these terms refers to the same type of document: A deed that conveys a limited warranty of title.
Relationship of Grant Deed Form to Warranty of Title
Key Term: Warranty of Title. Title issues can be caused by many things, including errors in the public record, unknown liens against the property, undisclosed prior conveyances, forged deeds, missing heirs or unprobated wills, or disputes about boundary lines or surveys. Title issues often require legal action to fix and can decrease the value of real estate. If the property has no title issues, it is said to have clear title. A warranty of title is a legal guarantee from the transferor to the transferee that there are no title issues. If a deed makes a warranty of title, the transferee can sue the transferor over any title issues.
The defining feature of a California grant deed form is a limited warranty of title. A person who signs a grant deed provides the new owner with a limited warranty of title. This means that the person who is transferring the property only guarantees that he or she has done nothing to convey the property to anyone else. The transferor is not responsible for title issues that arose before the transferor acquired title.
Title insurance can supplement the warranty provided by a California grant deed. A title insurance policy insures the risk of any title issues, even those that arose earlier in the chain of title. Before writing a title insurance policy, a title company will search the land records and other resources to be sure that title is clear. This additional due diligence helps ensure that any title issues are caught before the transfer. Title insurance is almost always used in the sale context and is required by banks and other mortgage lenders.
Comparison of California Grant Deeds to Other Forms of California Deeds
A California grant deed is a middle form of deed. Unlike a quitclaim deed, it provides the new owner with a limited guarantee about the title to the property. But unlike a California warranty deed, this guarantee is limited to the time that the transferor owned the property.
Example: Jake owns a parcel of land San Bernardino County. Jake does not know that the person who transferred the property to him did not have clear title to the property. As a result, there is a defect in title that arose before Jake acquired the property.
If Jake transfers the property to Brett using a grant deed form, Jake is not responsible for the defect in title. The defect arose before Jake acquired the property, so it is not included in the implied warranty of the grant deed.
If, on the other hand, Jake uses a warranty deed form to transfer title to Brett, Jake would be responsible for the defect in title. That is because a warranty deed form guarantees that Jake has clear title to the property and covers issues that arose before Jake acquired title.
California grant deeds also differ from other forms of deeds that are named after features other than the warranty of title. For example, life estate deeds and transfer-on-death deeds are both named after the probate avoidance feature suggested by the name. Because these deeds are named after different characteristics, and because these features are not exclusive, the same deed may have two different names. For example, a California life estate deed may also be appropriately called a California grant deed if the deed provides a limited warranty of title.
Common Uses of California Grant Deeds
In California, grant deeds are popular. They are often used in the following circumstances:
- To transfer property from one person to another, especially if the transfer is a sale and not a gift;
- To add or remove a person’s name from the deed;
- To transfer property to or from the trustee of a living trust;
- To add a person as a co-owner of the property;
- To transfer property to or from a business, such as or an LLC;
- To transfer ownership to a spouse after marriage or from a spouse after divorce; or
- To change how co-owners hold title (such as converting the property from community property to separate property or from joint tenancy to tenancy in common).
A grant deed form may be used in other situations where the parties intend to provide only a limited warranty of title.
How to Create a California Grant Deed
Grant deeds are authorized by California Civil Code § 1092, which provides:
A grant of an estate in real property may be made in substance as follows:
“I, A B, grant to C D all that real property situated in (insert name of county) County, State of California, bounded (or described) as follows: (here insert property description, or if the land sought to be conveyed has a descriptive name, it may be described by the name, as for instance, “The Norris Ranch.’)
Witness my hand this (insert day) day of (insert month), 20___.
As is the case with other statutory deed forms, this template omits important information and is far too limited to be used as an actual California grant deed form. In practice, attorneys and other deed preparers use the operative words of conveyance (in this case, the word “grant”) to deal exclusively with the warranty of title. Other language is added to the body of the deed to deal with other important matters.
Because the grant deed includes the word “grant” in the vesting paragraph, California will treat the term as an implied warranty that the transferor owns the property, has not conveyed it to another person, and has done nothing that would cause title issues (things like unpaid taxes, assessments, or other liens that are not recorded in the land records). Because this warranty is implied by the word “grant,” there is no need to state it in the body of the deed. By contrast, the warranties in a warranty deed are express warranties, meaning that they are spelled out in the body of the deed itself.
Grant deed forms must meet all requirements of California law, including a proper legal description, statement of consideration, and a description of the manner in which co-owners will hold title. The grant deed must also meet California’s font size and page format requirements and include signature and notary blocks that fit the statutory format.
It is important to include the correct language in a California grant deed. If the deed is called a grant deed but contains contradictory language, the deed will contain a patent ambiguity. These types of issues can require legal action—and possibly litigation—to resolve. To avoid these risks, it is important to use a grant deed form that includes the correct language and, perhaps more importantly, includes no contradictory language. The deed forms created by our Deed Generator were designed by attorneys to meet the requirements of California law.