California Quit Claim Deed Form
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What is a California Quitclaim Deed Form?
A California quitclaim deed form is a special type of deed that transfers real estate without guarantees about the property’s title. A person who transfers property by quitclaim deed (the transferor or grantor) does not promise that he or she has clear title or actually owns the property. The person who receives property by quitclaim deed (the transferee or grantee) receives whatever interest the transferor has, but no more.
A quitclaim deed does not come with a warranty of title, so the transferee is not guaranteed to receive legal ownership of the property. For that reason, quitclaim deeds are often used when a deed involves no consideration—or payment or other value given in exchange for a transfer.
What is Warranty of Title?
A warranty of title is a legal guarantee that there are no problems with a property’s title. The transferor gives the warranty to the transferee when signing some types of deeds. A transferor who provides a warranty of title agrees to be legally responsible if a title problem arises. A transferee who receives a deed with a warranty of title can sue the transferor if a title problem surfaces.
Title problems can decrease a property’s value or make it hard to sell, and legal action may be needed to address a problem. Warranty of title protects the transferee from the financial loss title problems can cause.
How Does Warranty of Title Work with California Quitclaim Deeds?
The defining trait of quitclaim deeds is their lack of any warranty of title. Because there is no warranty of title, a quitclaim deed gives the transferee no legal right to hold the transferor responsible for title problems. A quitclaim deed is effectively an “as-is” transfer. The transferor gets whatever interest the transferor holds without assurance that the transferor has an interest.
Other Names for a California Quitclaim Deed Form
A quitclaim deed is sometimes called a quit claim deed. These two terms are interchangeable. Quitclaim or quit claim can also be verbs—as in, Abe quitclaims the property to Ben.
Some people mistakenly use the term quick claim deed when referring to a quitclaim deed. That term is always incorrect. There is no such thing as a quick claim deed.
Quitclaim deeds are valid and commonly used in California. Title insurers in a few states—including Texas—disfavor quitclaim deeds. In those other states, a deed without warranty (also called a no warranty deed) often substitutes for a quitclaim deed. Title insurance companies in California accept quitclaim deeds, so California has no deed without warranty form.
How do California Quitclaim Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
A California quitclaim deed transfers property without guarantees, placing the risk of title problems on the new owner. If the transferor has no interest in the property, the transferee takes nothing through a quitclaim deed. The transferee cannot sue for breach of warranty if there are problems with the property’s title because a quitclaim deed gives no warranty.
A quitclaim deed’s lack of warranty is what distinguishes it from two other California deed forms: grant deeds and warranty deeds.
California Grant Deed Form
Grant deeds are the most common type of deed for transferring California real estate. A California grant deed form provides a partial warranty of title.1 An owner who signs a California grant deed makes two promises to the transferee:
- He or she has not transferred the property to anyone other than the transferee.
- The property is free of liens, mortgages, or other third-party claims caused or allowed by the transferor.2
The effect of a grant deed is that the current owner accepts legal responsibility for any title problems that arose while he or she owned the property. The new owner assumes the risk of title problems that arose at any other time. A California grant deed provides the new owner greater protection than a quitclaim deed but less protection that a warranty deed.
California Warranty Deed Form
A California warranty deed form transfers real estate with a complete warranty of title. The current owner guarantees that there are no title problems that are not specifically excluded by the deed. The warranty covers issues that arose at any point in the property’s history—even problems from before the transferor owned the property.
A California warranty deed reverses the way a quitclaim deed distributes the risk of title problems. While a quitclaim deed places all risk on the new owner, a warranty deed keeps the risk with the current owner.
Example: Jake transfers a parcel of land in Los Angeles County to Brett. A few months later, Jake transfers his interest in the same property to Robert by quitclaim deed. At the time of the quitclaim to Robert, Jake no longer owned the property (because he already gave it to Brett a few months earlier). That means that Robert receives no interest in the property.
If Jake had used either a grant deed form or warranty deed form, Robert would have a legal claim against Jake for breaching the warranty of title. However, Jake used a quitclaim deed form—which does not warrant the property’s title. So, Robert cannot hold Jake legally responsible for conveying real estate he did not own. Robert cannot sue Jake for breach of warranty because Jake did not guarantee a good title when he signed the quitclaim deed.
Title Insurance and California Quitclaim Deeds
A transferee who takes title under a California quitclaim deed assumes all risk of problems with the property’s title. He or she can limit exposure to financial risk by purchasing a title insurance policy that covers the property.
Title insurance protects against unknown problems with a property’s title. The insurance company charges an up-front premium and, in return, agrees to cover any financial loss caused by a title problem. Title insurers also arrange for title examinations before they issue policies. A title exam substantially increases the chance that title problems are identified before closing.
Quitclaim Deeds and Other California Deeds Used in Estate Planning
The name quitclaim deed refers solely to the deed’s lack of a warranty of title. Other types of California deeds use different names that do not depend on the warranty of title.
Life estate deeds and transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds are two of the most popular types of deeds for California estate planning. Life estate deeds and TOD deeds each allow California real estate to avoid probate—which can reduce the cost and complexity of estate administration and help keep the owner’s financial affairs private.
The primary difference between a life estate deed and California TOD deed is that a TOD deed is revocable and does not limit the owner’s rights in the property while the owner is still living. That means an owner can still sell or mortgage the property after recording a TOD deed.3 An owner who records a life estate deed can no longer transfer complete title unless the remainder beneficiary—the person who takes title when the owner dies—consents to the transfer.4
California estate-planning deeds and quitclaim deeds have names based on different characteristics. Therefore, more than one name could apply to the same deed. For example, a California life estate deed might also be a California quitclaim deed.
Assuming the person added to the deed outlives the original owner, the property will automatically transfer to that person at the original owner’s death. This approach should only be used if the owner is comfortable giving away part of the property during the owner’s life.
Common Uses of California Quitclaim Deed Forms
California quitclaim deeds are most often used in relatively low-risk situations involving nominal or no consideration. Quitclaim deeds are useful for re-titling property or transferring legal ownership without changing actual control.
California quitclaim deeds are often used if the property is being transferred:
- To a spouse or other family member as a gift;
- To remove an ex-spouse from a property’s title following a divorce;
- To change the nature of marital property (changing separate property to community property, for example);5
- To a living trust or business owned by the current owner;
- To add a new owner who will co-own the property with the current owner (adding someone to the deed);6
- From someone who no longer wishes to hold title (removing someone from the deed); or
- To eliminate a cloud on title by clarifying that the transferor has no interest in the property (for example, California title insurers often ask a non-owner spouse to sign a quitclaim deed to avoid a later claim against the property).
How to Create a California Quitclaim Deed
A California quitclaim deed form needs to be a legally valid document that does what the parties want it to do. It must satisfy California’s legal requirements for all deeds and have the right language to ensure that the deed qualifies as a quitclaim deed.
California Quitclaim Deed Requirements
California quitclaim deeds are not based on a specific California statute. Instead, the roots of quitclaim deeds are in the common law, and they must include the right granting language to avoid any express or implied warranty of title.
A quitclaim deed must not include any provision that suggests that the transferor warrants or guarantees the property’s title. For example, a California deed that uses the word grant(s) to describe the transfer provides an implied warranty.7 The granting language of a California quitclaim deed typically says the current owner quitclaims his or her interest—rather than grants or conveys. A quitclaim deed need not have a clause that expressly disclaims a warranty, but a disclaimer helps avoid ambiguity.
California General Deed Requirements
Along with using the correct granting language, a California quitclaim deed must include the elements that apply to all California deeds—such as:
- An appropriate title;
- A valid legal description of the property and its assessor’s identification number; and
- The new owners’ form of co-ownership (if there are more than one transferee).8
Deeds must also be signed, notarized, and formatted in the manner that California requires for recorded documents.9
Selecting a California Quitclaim Deed Form
Different states have different rules for deeds. California quitclaim deed forms must be designed for California law. A quitclaim deed that is valid in another state might be ineffective in California. Because a noncompliant deed can cause problems with a property’s title, it is important to use the right deed.
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