Colorado Warranty Deed Form

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What is a Colorado General Warranty Deed Form?

A Colorado general warranty deed form is a deed that transfers real estate with complete warranty of title.1 A warranty of title is the current owner’s promise that the real estate’s title is free of undisclosed defects—such as liens, adverse claims, or other flaws that might restrict the new owner’s use of the real estate or decrease its value.2

The warranty provided by a Colorado general warranty deed includes the real estate’s entire chain of title.3 Regardless of whether a defect arose while the current owner held title or before, the warranty covers it. That means that—when signing a general warranty deed—the current owner agrees to assume all the risk of unknown problems with the property’s title. If an undisclosed title defect emerges after the transfer, the new owner can sue the prior owner for breach of warranty.

Colorado general warranty deeds typically state that the current owner sells and conveys the real estate and warrants the title to the same.4 Colorado law assumes that a general warranty deed transfers all interest the property owner currently holds in the real estate unless the deed expressly states otherwise.5

Other Names for a Colorado General Warranty Deed Form

Colorado’s general warranty deed statute uses the condensed term “warranty deed.”6 However, general warranty deed is commonly used in Colorado—and in other jurisdictions—to distinguish general warranty deeds from special warranty deeds.7 Special warranty deeds also provide warranty of title, but the warranty is less comprehensive.8

Some states use the term statutory warranty deed to describe deeds that provides complete warranty of title. Statutory warranty deed designates a deed that uses statutory language to indicate the warranty of title involved in the transaction. Because Colorado law has statutory language for both general warranty deeds and special warranty deeds, the term statutory warranty deed is imprecise and less useful when discussing Colorado deeds.

How do Colorado General Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?

The defining characteristic of Colorado general warranty deeds is the unrestricted warranty of title.9 Warranty deeds that use Colorado’s statutory language include five covenants—or legally enforceable promises—from the current owner.

  1. The current owner held complete title to the property when signing the deed (the common law covenant of seisin).
  2. The current owner has the legal power to transfer the property (the common law covenant of right to convey).
  3. The real estate is free and clear of any liens or adverse claims not disclosed in the deed (the common law covenant against encumbrances).
  4. No future claimant will assert title to the real estate superior to the title transferred to the new owner (the common law covenant of quiet enjoyment).
  5. The current owner will defend the title transferred to the new owner against any future claimants (the common law covenant of warranty).10

Under common law, general warranty deeds include six covenants of title. Colorado’s general warranty deed statute incorporates five of the six common law covenants within three statutory provisions and omits the sixth.11

Parties to a Colorado deed can agree to include additional warranties—such as the covenant of further assurance—or to limit the warranties the deed provides.12 A deed must unambiguously describe any modification of the statutory covenants.13

Because general warranty deeds place all the risk of title defects on the current owner, persons signing general warranty deeds sometimes purchase title insurance to shift the risk to an insurance company. When issuing a title insurance policy, the insurer agrees to indemnify the insured person against any losses or damages resulting from liens, defects, or unmarketability of the property’s title.14

Colorado General Warranty Deed Form vs. Colorado Quitclaim Deed Form

A Colorado quitclaim deed form—also called release deed—is the opposite of a general warranty deed in terms of warranty of title and risk allocation. A quitclaim deed transfers the current owner’s interest, if any, with no warranty.15 The current owner does not guaranty that he or she holds clear title or legitimately owns the property.

With a quitclaim deed, the new owner bears all risk of title defects. The new owner has no recourse against the prior owner if a problem with the property’s title arises. A new owner obtaining real estate through a quitclaim deed may therefore wish to purchase title insurance as financial protection against unknown problems with the property’s title.

A Colorado bargain and sale deed form is similar to a Colorado quitclaim deed in that a bargain and sale deed also provides no warranty of title.16 The two terms are used interchangeably in some jurisdictions, but in Colorado there is a subtle but important distinction. A Colorado quitclaim deed transfers a property owner’s current interest in the property, but a bargain and sale deed also passes any additional interest the current owner acquires after signing the deed.17

Colorado General Warranty Deed Form vs. Colorado Special Warranty Deed Form

A Colorado special warranty deed form—also called limited warranty deed or grant deed—transfers real estate with a time-restricted warranty of title.18 Where a general warranty deed’s warranty encompasses a property’s entire chain of title, a special warranty deed’s warranty only extends to the period when the current owner owned the property.

Colorado’s statutory language for general and special warranty deeds is very similar.19 In both cases, the current owner “warrants the title…” to the real estate.20 With a special warranty deed, though, the warranty language adds the clause “against all persons claiming under me.”21

Because a special warranty deed apportions the risk of title defects between the current owner and the new owner, both parties to a special warranty deed benefit from title insurance.

Colorado Warranty Deed Form vs. Colorado Beneficiary Deed Form

A Colorado beneficiary deed form—also called transfer on death deed or TOD deed—is a specialized deed form designed for estate planning. Beneficiary deeds are named for the purpose they serve—nonprobate transfer of real estate upon the owner’s death—rather than the warranty of title offered.

A beneficiary deed allows a property owner to formally designate a successor—the deed’s beneficiary—to take title upon the current owner’s death.22 A beneficiary deed does not transfer a current property interest to the beneficiary and does not limit the property owner’s rights during life.23

Unless a beneficiary deed expressly states otherwise, the deed provides no warranty of title.24 A Colorado beneficiary deed that is silent as to warranty of title is treated as transferring property with the same effect as a bargain and sale deed.25

Life estate deeds serve a purpose similar to beneficiary deeds. A life estate deed allows a property owner to transfer or reserve a lifetime interest in real estate—called a life tenancy—and designate a successor to acquire the property upon the life tenant’s death. The successor—the remainderman—acquires a vested interest in the real estate while the life tenant is still alive. The remainderman’s interest limits the life tenant’s right to transfer the real estate. Because beneficiary deeds serve a similar purpose without restricting the current owner’s rights, life estate deeds became uncommon in Colorado after the legislature authorized beneficiary deeds.

Colorado Warranty Deed Form vs. Other Types of Colorado Deeds

Several more specialized Colorado deed forms are named for the official or agent who signs them. A public trustee’s deed, for instance, is issued by an appointed county official following foreclosure of a deed of trust.26 Specialized deeds are most commonly drafted as quitclaim or bargain and sale deeds but can also provide warranty of title—depending on the language used in a specific deed.

Common Uses of Colorado General Warranty Deed Forms

Colorado general warranty deeds are typically used when real estate is transferred from buyer to seller in an arms-length transaction—especially residential real estate sales. A buyer spending a significant sum on a property cannot afford the risk of unclear title. A seller unwilling to guaranty that the transferred title has genuine value may have difficulty finding a willing buyer.

Further, lenders financing real estate purchases frequently require a general warranty and title insurance as a condition of financing. The insurance and accompanying title examination protect all parties by detecting unknown title defects and shifting the financial risk to the insurance company in exchange for payment of a premium.27

General warranty deeds are uncommon when transferring real estate for less than fair market value—such as deeds between family members. A recipient of gifted or inherited real estate is unlikely to insist on a guaranteed title. Fiduciaries transferring real estate on behalf of a living trust or deceased person’s estate are also less likely to issue general warranty deeds. A trustee, personal representative, or executor may have insufficient knowledge or authority to extend a warranty relating to matters of which they lack personal knowledge.

How to Create a Colorado General Warranty Deed

The Colorado Legislature enacted statutory language for creating general warranty deeds.28 The model language includes additional information about the parties, their addresses, and the consideration for the transfer, but the law identifies two vital phrases. A statutory general warranty deed must state that the current owner “sells and conveys” the real estate to the new owner and that the current owner “warrants the title.”29 A validly executed deed that includes those two terms is assumed to create a general warranty deed.30 Warranty of title is implied in the deed even if the deed expresses no covenants of warranty.

The parties to a Colorado general warranty deed can agree to modify or limit the warranties provided by the deed.31 Modifications must describe the parties’ intended terms using precise, unambiguous language. Additionally, a general warranty deed can incorporate “statutory exceptions” by stating that the deed’s warranty is “subject to statutory exceptions.”32 When a deed’s warranty is subject to statutory exceptions, the new owner agrees to accept title subject to:

  • Real estate taxes for the year of the deed and future years;
  • Matters disclosed by an improvement survey plat;
  • Matters identifiable through an inspection of the property and which the current owner did not create and was unaware; and
  • Matters of public record in the land records of the county where the real estate is located.33

Importantly, Colorado’s model warranty deed language creates the presumption that a deed is a general warranty deed but is insufficient to create a valid and recordable Colorado deed. Other Colorado statutes set forth content and execution requirements that apply to all deeds.34 Because a noncompliant deed may fail to effectively convey real estate or be rejected by the county clerk and recorder, precise preparation and attention to detail are vital when preparing a Colorado deed.

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  1. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(a).
  2. See Feit v. Donahue, 826 P.2d 407 (Colo. App. 1992).
  3. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(4).
  4. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(a).
  5. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(3).
  6. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(a).
  7. See O’Brien v. Vill. Land Co., 794 P.2d 246 (Colo. 1990).
  8. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(4)(a)(III)(B).
  9. See O’Brien v. Vill. Land Co., 794 P.2d 246 (Colo. 1990).
  10. R.S. § 38-30-113(4).
  11. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(4)(a)(I – III). The sixth common law covenant—the covenant of further assurance—is the current owner’s promise to take any future actions necessary to protect the new owner’s interest in the real estate. See, e.g., Douglass v. Lewis, 131 U.S. 75, 9 S.Ct. 634 (1889).
  12. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(3).
  13. Kanarado Mining Dev. Co. v. Sutton, 36 Colo. App. 375, 539 P.2d 1325 (1975).
  14. C.R.S. §10-11-102(8).
  15. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(d).
  16. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(c).
  17. Tuttle v. Burrows, 852 P.2d 1314 (Colo. App. 1992).
  18. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(b).
  19. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(4)(a).
  20. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(a) and (b).
  21. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(b).
  22. C.R.S. § 15-15-402(1).
  23. C.R.S. § 15-15-402(3).
  24. C.R.S. § 15-15-404(2).
  25. C.R.S. § 15-15-404(2).
  26. C.R.S. § 38-38-502.
  27. C.R.S. §10-11-102(8).
  28. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1)(a).
  29. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(1) and (4).
  30. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(3).
  31. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(3).
  32. C.R.S. § 38-30-113(5).
  33. R.S. § 38-30-113(5)(a)(I – III).
  34. See, e.g., C.R.S. § 30-10-406(3); C.R.S. § 38-35-122; C.R.S. § 38-30-113(3).