California Grant Deed Form
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What Is a California Grant Deed Form?
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.1 A property owner who signs a grant deed guarantees that he or she has done nothing that would cause title issues but makes no promises about earlier owners’ actions.2
Grant deeds are a common type of deed for transferring California real estate sold for fair market value. They give buyers some assurance of a good title without providing complete warranty of title. This feature lets sellers avoid bearing risk for events outside of their knowledge and control.
What Is Warranty of Title?
A warranty of title is a legal guarantee included in some deeds. A transferor who provides a warranty promises the transferee that there are no problems with the property’s title. The transferee can sue the transferor if a title problem emerges.
Warranty of title protects the new owner against multiple potential problems with a property’s title. A title problem might result from:
- An error in an earlier deed or other recorded document that affects the property;
- Unknown liens or mortgages on the property;
- An undisclosed prior transfer of an interest in the property;
- Forged deeds;
- An unresolved issue with a prior owner’s probate estate; or
- A dispute about boundaries with neighboring properties.
An unresolved title problem can reduce the property’s value and make it difficult to sell. Costly legal action is often necessary to fix title problems. A property that has no title problems is said to have clear title.
How is a California Grant Deed’s Warranty Limited?
A California grant deed form provides a limited warranty of title. The current owner who is transferring the property—called the grantor or transferor—guarantees that he or she has done nothing that would cause title problems. The transferor makes no promises about anything that happened before he or she acquired the property.
A limited warranty of title is implied in a California grant deed. A California deed that has the word grant in its transfer language includes two implied promises from the transferor:
- Before signing the grant deed, the transferor has not transferred the property to anyone other than the transferee.
- The property is free of undisclosed encumbrances—adverse interests like liens or mortgages—caused by anything the transferor did or allowed.3
Other Names for a California Grant Deed Form
Other states have deed forms with a limited warranty of title like a California grant deed. In most of those states, deeds that provide a limited warranty go by other names—such as:
- Special warranty deed (the most common name);
- Limited warranty deed;
- Covenant deed; or
- Grant, bargain, and sale deed.4
The term statutory warranty deed refers to a deed that includes a warranty of title based on statutory form language. State laws differ. A statutory warranty deed might be a deed with a limited warranty in one state and a deed with a complete warranty in another state.
How Do California Grant Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
A California grant deed provides a partial warranty that covers only title problems that arose while the transferor held title. The limited warranty splits the risk of title problems between the current and new owners.
California recognizes two other types of deeds distinguished by the warranty of title they provide (or do not provide). In either case, one party to the deed bears all risk of title problems.
California Warranty Deed Form
A California warranty deed transfers property with complete warranty of title. The transferor guarantees a valid, clear title and agrees to be legally responsible for any title problems. The warranty covers any issues from any point in the property’s history—even if a problem arose before the transferor acquired the property. The transferee can sue the transferor for breach of warranty if any title problems emerge.
California Quitclaim Deed Form
A California quitclaim deed transfers property with no warranty of title. The transferor’s entire interest passes to the transferee, but the transferor does not guarantee a good title. The transferee takes whatever interest the transferor can legally convey and bears the risk of any property title problems. A quitclaim deed’s transferee has no legal right to sue for breach of warranty if there are problems with the property’s title.
Example: Jack owns a property in San Bernardino County. The person who transferred the property to Jack did not hold clear title. Jack is not aware of a problem with the property’s title—a title defect—that arose before he acquired the property.
Jack transfers the property to Arthur using a grant deed form. Arthur cannot sue Jack for breach of warranty when he learns of the title defect. This is because the grant deed’s implied warranty does not cover title problems that arose before Jack took title. Jack is therefore not legally responsible for the problem.
On the other hand, Jack would be responsible for the title defect if he used a warranty deed form to transfer title to Arthur. A warranty deed form guarantees that Jack has clear title and covers issues that arose before he acquired the property.
California Title Insurance and Grant Deeds
A title insurance policy covers the risk of existing title problems that were not known when the insurer issued the policy. The insurance company agrees to compensate the insured person—typically the property owner or a lender—for financial loss caused by a title problem. Title insurance can supplement the partial warranty of title a California grant deed provides by protecting the new owner against title defects rooted at any point in the property’s chain of title.5
Before writing a title insurance policy, a title company will review the land records to ensure the property’s title is clear. This additional due diligence helps catch any title issues before the transfer. Banks and other mortgage lenders require title insurance when financing real estate purchases, so sales almost always involve title insurance.
California Grant Deed Forms and Other California Deeds Used in Estate Planning
California grant deeds, quitclaim deeds, and warranty deeds have names based on the warranty of title each type of deed offers. Other California deeds are named for other features. Two deeds used in California estate planning—life estate deeds and transfer-on-death deeds—have names based on how they allow real estate to avoid probate.
Life estate deeds split ownership between a present owner who owns the property for life (the life tenant) and a future owner (the remainder beneficiary) who has the right to take possession when the life tenant dies.6 A California transfer-on-death (TOD) deed lets the current owner keep complete ownership for life and name a beneficiary to take title automatically when the current owner dies.7
Another estate-planning deed—called a survivorship deed—allows real estate to bypass probate by adding a new co-owner and using a co-ownership form with a right of survivorship. That typically means the co-owners hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship or (if they are married) as community property with right of survivorship. A survivorship deed avoids probate by passing the property directly to a surviving co-owner upon the other co-owner’s death. A potential downside is that the new co-owner receives a present ownership interest in the property when the deed is created.
Probate avoidance and warranty of title are separate features that can coincide in the same deed. So, more than one name may apply to a single deed. For example, a California life estate deed may also be a California grant deed if the deed provides a limited warranty of title.
Common Uses of California Grant Deed Forms
Grant deeds are popular in California and can be used for various purposes. Sales of California real estate for fair market value or other valuable consideration frequently use grant deeds—particularly for commercial or multi-family residential properties or when the new owner is purchasing title insurance. A California grant deed may also be a good choice in any of the following circumstances:
- To transfer property to a trust—like a living trust—that the transferor controls or benefits from;
- To transfer property to a business—like a limited liability company—that the transferor owns;
- To add a co-owner or remove a co-owner’s name from the deed;
- To transfer title between former spouses after a divorce; or
- To change the form of co-ownership for a property with multiple owners (for example, to change community property to separate property or change a tenancy in common to a joint tenancy with right of survivorship).
A grant deed form may be used in other situations where the transferors do not want to be legally responsible for title problems that arose before they owned the property.
How to Create a California Grant Deed
A California grant deed form must meet the legal requirements for a valid, recordable deed and must have the correct language to ensure that the deed qualifies as a grant deed.
Creating a Grant Deed
California real estate law provides the following form language for grant deeds:10
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___.
Because the transfer language uses the word “grant,” a deed in the statutory form has an implied warranty. The transferor guarantees that he or she owns the property, has not transferred it to anyone else, and has done nothing to cause title problems.11
A grant deed’s limited warranty is implied based on the word grant, so there is no need to include an express warranty—a warranty spelled out in the body of the deed itself. By contrast, California warranty deeds have express warranties written directly into the deed.
California General Deed Requirements
California’s statutory grant deed template omits important information and cannot be used by itself as an actual California grant deed form. In practice, attorneys use the transfer language (specifically, the word grant) to establish the warranty of title. The rest of the deed must be carefully prepared to include the parties’ intended terms and to comply with California’s general requirements for all deeds.12
A valid California deed must be properly formatted and include (among other things):
- A title;
- An address for property tax statements;
- A sufficient legal description of the property;
- The co-ownership form the transferees will use (if there is more than one); and
- The transferor’s notarized signature on the required form.
Selecting a California Grant Deed Form
A California grant deed form must have the correct language and format for a valid grant deed. A deed that is titled Grant Deed but lacks the necessary language may fail to legally transfer the property or cause future title problems. Legal action may be needed to fix problems caused by a flawed deed form.
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- Cal. Civ. Code § 1092.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 1113.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 1113.
- See, e.g., Oreg. Rev. Stat. § 93.855; Ohio Rev. Code § 5302.07; Mich. Comp. Law § 750.275; Nev. Rev. Stat. § 111.170.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 1057.6.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 690.
- Cal. Prob. Code § 5614(a).
- Cal. Prob. Code § 5650.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 818.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 1092.
- Cal. Civ. Code § 1113.
- See, e.g., Cal. Gov. Code §§ 27321.5(a); 27287; 27361.6; Cal. Civ. Code § 1092.