How a California Quitclaim Deed Form Works
A California quitclaim deed form is a special type of deed used to transfer real estate without making guarantees about title to the property. A person that transfers property by quitclaim deed makes no promises that he or she owns or has clear title to the property. The person who receives property by quitclaim deed receives whatever interest the owner has, but no more. The person who signed the deed is not responsible if it turns out that there is a problem with title to the property.
Other Names for California Quitclaim Deeds
A quitclaim deed is sometimes called a quit claim deed (quit claim instead of quitclaim). These two terms are interchangeable.
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.
Comparison of California Quitclaim Deeds to Other Forms of California Deeds
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.
Quitclaim deeds are identified by the lack of any warranty of title. Because there is no warranty of title, the person to whom the property is conveyed has no legal rights against the person signing the deed. 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 owns the property or has clear title to it. This feature distinguishes a quitclaim deed form from California grant deed form and a California warranty deed form, both of which provide a warranty of title.
Example: 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 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 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. This lack of warranty distinguishes quitclaim deeds from warranty deeds and grant deeds.
Quitclaim deeds also differ from other California deed forms in that they do not convey after-acquired title. 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.
The designation of a deed as a quitclaim deed refers solely to the lack of a warranty of title. Other deeds go by different names that do not depend on the warranty of title. For example, California recognizes life estate deeds and transfer-on-death deeds. Each of these deed types is named for the specific probate avoidance feature associated with the deed. Because these terms refer to independent features, the same names could apply to more than one deed. For example, a California life estate deed could also be a California quitclaim deed.
Although quitclaim deeds are valid and often used in California, title insurers in other states—including Texas—disfavor quitclaim deeds. In these other states, a deed without warranty (also called a no warranty deed) may be used as a substitute for a quitclaim deed. Because California title insurance companies recognize quitclaim deeds, California has no deed without warranty form.
Common Uses of Quitclaim Deeds
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 an ex-spouse from title to real estate following a divorce;
- Creating a deed that transfers property automatically at death to avoid probate;
- Eliminating 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 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.
How to Create a California Quitclaim Deed
In California, quitclaim deeds have their origins in the common law “conveyance by a release” instead of specific statutory authority. The granting language of the deed will customarily include the word “quitclaim” instead of “convey” or “grant.” Special care must be taken to include the correct granting language in the deed. For example, under California Civil Code § 1092, accidentally using “grant” in the deed could result in the creation of a grant deed instead of a quitclaim deed.
In addition to using the correct granting language, a California quitclaim deed must include the other required elements that apply to all deeds. These elements include a valid legal description, statement of consideration, and a description of the manner in which co-owners will hold title. The deed must also comply with font size and page format requirements and California’s signature and notarization requirements.
Quitclaim deeds should 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 contradiction 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. The deed forms created by our Deed Generator were designed by attorneys to meet the requirements of California law.