A California Quitclaim Deed form is a special form of deed used to transfer real estate when the transferor makes no guarantees about title to the property. A Quitclaim Deed is sometimes erroneously referred to as a “Quick Claim Deed” or “Quit Claim Deed.”
Unlike both Grant Deed forms and Warranty Deed forms, a Quitclaim Deed form does not contain any warranty of title to guarantee that the transferor has clear title to the property. A person who signs a Quitclaim Deed transfers whatever interest he or she has to the new owner, but doesn’t guarantee that he or she actually has an interest in the real estate.
Say that Jake transfers a parcel of land in Los Angeles County to Brett. A few months later, Jake quitclaims his interest in the same property to Robert by Quitclaim Deed. At the time of the quitclaim to Robert, Jake did not actually own the property (since he conveyed it to Brett a few months earlier). That means that Robert has 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. Because a Quitclaim Deed form does not warrant title, Jake cannot be held responsible for conveying property that he did not own. Since the transfer was by Quitclaim Deed, Robert has no legal recourse against Jake.
As this example illustrates, a Quitclaim Deed creates risk to the new owner. The new owner gets only the interest the transferor has. If it turns out that the transferor has no interest, the recipient receives nothing. Because of the lack of warranty, Quitclaim Deeds are most often used in low-risk situations. Common situations include:
- Gifts of real estate, where the recipient is not giving consideration for the property;
- Removing clouds on title (e.g., a transferor may quitclaim the property to another person just to clarify that the transferor doesn’t have an interest in the property); or
- Removing the name of a spouse (or ex-spouse) from the title to the real estate.
Quitclaim Deeds are often used when a couple wants to transfer property from both spouses’ names to the name of one spouse. This could be done to convert property from California community property to separate property or to satisfy title insurance requirements. Title insurance companies will often require the spouse that does not own California real estate to sign a Quitclaim Deed. This ensures that the non-owner spouse does not later claim title to the property.
Even though a Quitclaim Deed does not warrant title, it is an effective conveyance that cannot be reversed without the recipient’s involvement. If, for example, the transferor later changes his or her mind, the transferor has no way to get the property back other than to ask the recipient to return it. To reverse the transaction, the new owner would need to sign another deed re-transferring the property back to the original transferor.
Unlike Grant Deeds and Warranty Deeds, Quitclaim Deeds do not convey after-acquired title. This means that if it turns out that the transferor does not have title to the property but later acquires title, the transferor may keep the property after he or she later acquires it. The transferee gets only the interest that the transferor has at the time of the transfer, with no right to any interest that the transferor may acquire at a later time.
Quitclaim Deeds must include all of the required elements for California deeds. These requirements include a proper legal description, mental capacity, the correct granting clause, and delivery and acceptance.
It is important that Quitclaim Deeds be carefully drafted to avoid mixing up terms. If, for example, a Quitclaim Deed includes a warranty of title in the body of the deed, there would be a contraction between the type of deed used and the language of the deed itself. These contradictions are called patent ambiguities and can invalidate the deed or lead to court proceedings.