A Grant Deed form is a special type of deed that transfers title to California real estate in circumstances where the owner wants to provide a limited warranty of title. Grant deeds are often used to transfer property outright, add or remove an owner from a deed, or transfer property to or from a living trust. In other states, a Grant Deed may be called a Special Warranty Deed.
Grant Deed forms must meet all requirements of California law, including a proper legal description. The distinguishing feature of a Grant Deed 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 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.
Assume that 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.
As this example illustrates, you can think of a California Grant Deed as a middle form of deed. Unlike a Quitclaim Deed, it provides the new owner with a limited guarantee about title to the property. But unlike a California Warranty Deed, this guarantee is limited to the time that the transferor owned the property.
Grant Deeds are authorized by California Civil Code Section 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 Deeds also convey after-acquired title to the California real estate. This means that if the transferor does not have title to the property but later acquires title, the title that the transferor later acquires will automatically pass to the transferee.
Grant Deeds are the most common form of California deeds. 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 a spouse after marriage or from a spouse after divorce; or
- To change how co-owners hold title (such as converting property from community property to separate property or from joint tenancy to tenancy in common).
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.