Maryland Deed Forms for Real Estate Transfers

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What Types of Deeds Are Recognized in Maryland?

A Maryland property owner can transfer ownership by signing and recording a written deed.1 Maryland law recognizes multiple types of deeds intended for different purposes.2

There are three main deed types for Maryland real estate transfers during an owner’s life: quitclaim deeds, general warranty deeds, and special warranty deeds. Each of the three gives the new owner a different level of legal protection—called a warranty of title—against potential problems with the property’s title. A deed’s warranty of title depends on which written guarantees—or covenants of title—the deed includes (if any).

Maryland Quitclaim Deed Form

A Maryland quitclaim deed transfers ownership of property with no covenants of title and no warranty.3 The current owner (the grantor or transferor) turns over to the new owner (the grantee or transferee) whatever ownership interest he or she has. The transferor does not promise that the deed will transfer valid title or any ownership interest at all. The new owner receives whatever interest the current owner can transfer on an “as is” basis.4

Maryland quitclaim deeds place all risk of title issues on the new owner and are therefore not commonly used to transfer property purchased for fair value. Quitclaim deeds are more common for transfers that involve no consideration—payment or other value provided for the property. A property owner might use a quitclaim deed to add a spouse to the title, place a property in a living trust, or transfer ownership to a family member as a gift.

Maryland General Warranty Deed Form

A Maryland general warranty deed form transfers property with complete warranty of title. Where quitclaim deeds place all title risk on the new owner, general warranty deeds keep the risk with the current owner. Only issues excluded explicitly in the deed are outside the scope of the warranty.

A Maryland deed that says that the transferor “will warrant generally” the real estate includes the transferor’s promise to accept legal responsibility for any title problems—regardless of when the issue arose.5 A general warranty deed—or simply warranty deed—protects the new owner from various potential title problems. The warranty might cover:

  • An undisclosed lien or mortgage;
  • A flawed title caused by an error in an earlier deed or estate;
  • A third-party claim on the property caused by conflicting documents; or
  • A dispute over the property’s boundary with a neighboring property.

Maryland Special Warranty Deed Form

A Maryland special warranty deed transfers property with a limited warranty of title—sometimes called a special warranty. The transferor accepts legal responsibility for title issues that the transferor caused or allowed to occur. The warranty does not cover problems caused by someone who held title before the transferor.6

A Maryland deed that says that the transferor “will warrant specially” the real estate is a special warranty deed.7 The transferor bears the risk for title problems that arose while he or she owned the property. The transferee carries the risk for any other issues.

Special warranty deeds are the most common deed for Maryland real estate sales. They can also transfer property for no consideration. An owner might include a special warranty in an estate-planning deed or when adding a co-owner to the title.8

Attorney Practice Note: Maryland Covenants of Title: A Maryland deed provides no implied warranty of title—just whatever warranty or covenants are expressly written into the deed.9 Maryland’s real estate laws have a system of short-form covenants intended to promote consistency and reduce the language needed to add covenants.10 A deed with a short-form covenant is treated as though it contains the statute’s more thorough definition of the covenant. For example, a Maryland deed with the words “that the land is free and clear of all encumbrances” includes the transferor’s guarantee that there are no undisclosed liens, mortgages, assessments, judgments, utility charges, or other third-party claims against the property’s title.11

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What Types of Estate Planning Deeds Are Used in Maryland?

The term estate-planning deed refers to a deed created as part of an estate plan to enable an efficient property transfer upon the current owner’s death. Avoiding probate is the most common goal of estate-planning deeds, but they can have other benefits in appropriate situations.

Maryland law recognizes life estate deeds, life estate deeds with powers, and survivorship deeds. Each of the three is named for its estate-planning function—not its warranty of title. A Maryland estate-planning deed may also be a quitclaim deed, warranty deed, or special warranty deed.

Maryland Life Estate Deed

A Maryland life estate deed transfers property to a new owner “to hold during his [or her] life and no longer.”12 The new owner—the life tenant—owns the property until death. A life estate deed also names one or more remainder beneficiaries who have the right to future ownership of the property when the life tenant dies. Title automatically passes to the remainder beneficiary at the life tenant’s death, so the property is never in the life tenant’s probate estate.

Property owners often create life estate deeds that name themselves as the life tenant and give the remainder to a family member.13 The owner gives up the right to transfer or mortgage the property’s complete title after recording the life estate deed. A life tenant can sell the life estate, but a transfer of full title requires the remainder beneficiary to join in the deed.

Maryland Life Estate Deed with Powers

A Maryland life estate deed with powers is a variation of the traditional life estate deed that lets the owner keep the right to transfer complete ownership or mortgage the property for as long as the owner is living.14 The owner retains the life estate and names a remainder beneficiary. The owner also reserves certain powers over the property.15 Reserved powers most commonly include the power to sell, give away, or mortgage the property as a whole (not just the life estate) without the remainder beneficiary’s consent.16

A life estate deed with powers is the Maryland equivalent of what some states call an enhanced-life-estate deed or, informally, a Lady Bird deed. Only a minority of states recognize deeds of this type.

Attorney Practice Note: Maryland law does not recognize transfer-on-death (TOD deeds). TOD deeds allow the property owner to name a beneficiary who receives real estate automatically when the owner dies. During life, the owner retains all rights to the property—including the right to sell, transfer, or mortgage the property or to revoke the TOD deed. When the owner dies, ownership automatically vests in the beneficiary, bypassing probate.

Lady Bird deeds and TOD deeds have similar objectives. The difference is that a TOD deed has no legal effect until the owner’s death. A Lady Bird deed is legally effective when created, but the owner specifically reserves the life estate and powers over the property.

Maryland Survivorship Deed Form

A Maryland survivorship deed names joint owners of property who hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship or (if they are spouses) tenants by the entirety.17 When a co-owner dies, his or her ownership interest automatically passes to the surviving co-owner. The surviving co-owner becomes the sole owner, and the property avoids probate.

A property owner who creates a survivorship deed for an estate plan typically transfers title to the current owner and a family member who the owner wants to have the property after the current owner’s death.18 A survivorship deed lets the property bypass probate, but it also gives the new co-owner current ownership rights in the property while the original owner remains living.

What Are the Ways in Which Multiple Owners Can Jointly Own Maryland Real Estate?

Maryland recognizes the three main forms of co-ownership. The appropriate co-ownership form depends on the owners’ situation and goals.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common—sometimes called co-tenancy—is Maryland’s default co-ownership form.19 Two or more persons who jointly own Maryland real estate are tenants in common unless the deed that gave them the property specified a different co-ownership form. Each tenant in common (or co-tenant) owns a separate share of the same property. For example, three co-tenants might each own a one-third interest in Maryland real estate.

A deceased co-tenant’s share goes through probate. It is either distributed under the terms of the deceased owner’s will or inherited by heirs under state law.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

Joint tenancy’s crucial feature is the right of survivorship shared between the co-owners—called joint tenants. Surviving joint tenants have a right to a deceased joint tenant’s interest, so a joint-tenancy interest does not go through probate.

A Maryland deed to new or more new owners only creates a joint tenancy if it explicitly declares that the new owners are joint tenants.20 An individual owner can create a joint tenancy in Maryland real estate by creating a deed to the owner and another person as joint tenants.21

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety is similar to joint tenancy and also has a right of survivorship. The biggest difference is that only a married couple can be tenants by the entirety. Property co-owned by tenants by the entirety also receives stronger protection from creditors in some cases.

A deed that transfers Maryland real estate owned in tenancy by the entirety is only effective if both spouses sign the deed. The exception is that one spouse can sign a deed that makes the other spouse the property’s sole owner.22 A married property owner can also record a deed that gives the property to the married couple as tenants by the entirety.23

Marriage is an essential trait of tenancy by the entirety. If co-owner spouses divorce, a Maryland tenancy by the entirety becomes a tenancy in common.24

Real Estate Ownership Through Trusts

A revocable living trust can allow multiple persons to share the benefits of real estate without holding legal title. They must first form the trust by creating a signed trust instrument that defines the trust’s terms.25 The trust instrument names a trustee to manage and hold legal title to the real estate.26 The trust’s beneficiaries enjoy the benefits of the property—such as residing there or receiving rent payments. Maryland law lets two or more persons serve as co-trustees while also being beneficiaries.27

The current owner must sign and record a deed in favor of the trustee to formally transfer title to the trust.28 The trustee can then act for the trust regarding the property—such as by signing deeds, mortgages, or other documents that affect the property—subject to any limitations in the trust instrument.29

What Are the Rules for Spousal Ownership of Maryland Real Estate?

Laws in many states give a married person rights in real estate owned solely by the other spouse. Maryland’s real estate laws give non-owner spouses weaker property rights than in many states. Maryland no longer recognizes the traditional rights of dower and curtsey.30 Maryland also does not require a non-owner spouse’s consent to transfer a homestead—or principal residence—as in many other states.

Maryland does, however, give surviving spouses substantial inheritance rights in a deceased spouse’s property. Maryland property owners should consider their spouses’ potential inheritance rights when deciding how to title real estate or arrange assets for an estate plan.

Spousal Intestate Share

A spousal intestate share is a surviving spouse’s share in the estate of a deceased spouse who leaves no will. The spousal intestate share in Maryland depends on the deceased spouse’s other surviving family members:

  • No surviving issue or parent. The surviving spouse receives the entire estate if the deceased spouse has no surviving issue (i.e., children or grandchildren) or parents.
  • Surviving minor child. The spouse receives one-half of the estate if the deceased spouse has a surviving minor child.
  • Surviving issue; no minor child. The spouse receives $40,000.00, plus half of the remainder, if the deceased spouse has no minor children but has other surviving issue.
  • No surviving issue; surviving parent (married five years). The spouse receives the entire estate if the deceased spouse has no surviving issue, has a surviving parent, and the spouses were married five years or more.
  • No surviving issue; surviving parent (married under five years). The spouse receives $40,000.00, plus half of the remainder, if the deceased spouse has no surviving issue, has a surviving parent, and the spouses were married under five years.31

A Maryland surviving spouse is also entitled to a personal allowance of $10,000.00 from the estate.32

Spousal Elective Share

An elective share is a surviving spouse’s guaranteed interest in the deceased spouse’s estate—even if the deceased spouse’s will provides a smaller share. The elective share’s purpose is to ensure that surviving spouses have sufficient resources after the other spouse’s death.33

A Maryland surviving spouse’s elective share amount depends on whether the deceased spouse left surviving issue. If so, the elective share is one-third of the value of the probate estate and certain non-probate property—such as property held in living trusts or as a joint tenant.34 The elective share increases to one-half of the value if the deceased spouse leaves no surviving issue.

The elective share is in place of the spouse’s share under the will.35 A spouse can waive the elective share before or after the marriage.36

Where Are Deeds Filed in Maryland?

Each Maryland county, along with Baltimore City, has a circuit court clerk who maintains the county’s land records.37 A Maryland deed must be filed with the clerk of the circuit court for the county where the real estate is located.38

Attorney Practice Note: Maryland law often requires deeds that change the property’s ownership to be processed through the county’s property tax office before filing with the clerk.39 Our article on Maryland’s deed-recording requirements has more information on the procedure for recording a Maryland deed.

Does Maryland Allow Electronic Recording?

Maryland law authorizes (but does not require) clerks of the circuit court to accept electronically filed (e-filed) deeds.40 An e-filed deed with an electronic signature that complies with Maryland law counts as an original, signed document eligible for recording.41 Clerks that accept e-filed deeds must also continue accepting deeds in paper format.42

What Is the Cost to File a Maryland Deed?

Maryland’s deed-recording fee for a deed with nine or fewer pages is $20.00.43 The deed-recording fee is $75.00 for deeds with ten or more pages—except that any deed that solely involves a principal residence incurs the $20.00 fee.44

Maryland also charges a $40.00 surcharge for all documents recorded in the land records. Thus, the total recording fee for most Maryland deeds is either $60.00 or $115.00.

Attorney Practice Note: A Maryland deed cannot be recorded until all property taxes due for the real estate are current.45 Clerks require payment of past-due property taxes before accepting deeds. The new owner may have to pay a portion of future property taxes in advance—depending on when the recording date falls in the state’s accounting year.

Does Maryland Charge a Transfer Tax for Real Estate Transfers?

Maryland charges two separate but related taxes on real estate transfers: state transfer tax and state recordation tax.46 Maryland law bases both taxes on the consideration paid for the transfer. The state transfer tax rate is 0.5 percent of the consideration.47 Counties set recordation tax rates.48 Recordation tax rates typically work out to between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent.

The parties to the deed share the tax liability equally unless otherwise agreed.49 The clerk of the circuit court collects both taxes at the time of recording.50

Deeds in some Maryland counties also require a separate county transfer tax. County transfer taxes typically have rates comparable to the state recordation tax. Not all counties charge county transfer tax.

Which Deeds are Exempt from Maryland’s Transfer Tax?

Maryland has complementary lists of transfer tax exemptions and recordation tax exemptions.51 Most deeds exempt from one tax are also exempt from the other. First-time Maryland homebuyers may be eligible for partial exemptions.52

Common Maryland transfer tax and recordation tax exemptions include:

  • Transfers to a spouse, former spouse, domestic partner, or former domestic partner;
  • Transfers between certain related business entities;
  • Transfers from a deceased owner’s estate without consideration;
  • Transfers to a trust without consideration;
  • Transfers from a revocable trust to a trust beneficiary for no consideration due to the trust settlor’s death; and
  • Transfers from a trust to a beneficiary for no consideration if a deed directly to the beneficiary from the person who granted the property to the trust would be exempt.

Because Maryland’s transfer and recordation taxes are calculated using consideration, deeds that involve no actual consideration do not trigger the taxes. The transferor typically certifies in the deed that the transfer involves zero consideration to create a record confirming that no tax payment is necessary.

Does Maryland Require Any Additional Forms When Recording a Deed?

Multiple additional forms must accompany a Maryland deed filed for recording. Most clerks also require at least one extra copy of the deed to be forwarded to the Department of Assessments and Taxation.53

It is wise to verify with the clerk’s office which of the below forms a particular deed requires.

  • Cover letter. A deed filed by mail should have a cover letter requesting recording.54
  • Intake sheet. The Administrative Office of the Courts’ State of Maryland Land Instrument Intake Sheet must accompany all deeds.55
  • Income tax withholding form. Deeds that involve sales for actual consideration require one of several income tax forms.56 Deeds without consideration do not need a tax form if the deed declares that the transfer is for zero consideration.

Attorney Practice Note: Maryland Tax Forms: The correct Maryland tax form depends on the seller and the property. The options are Form MW506NRS (tax withholding form for nonresident sellers), Form WH-AR (affidavit of residence for Maryland residents or sales of a principal residence), or Form MW506AE (application for sellers requesting a different exemption). Our Maryland deed requirements article goes into greater detail about the additional forms Maryland requires with deeds.

Some types of deeds should include other documents due to the nature of the deed. For example, a deed signed by an agent under power of attorney (POA) should have the POA form, and a deed to a trust should have a certification of trust if one is not already of record.57

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  1. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 5-101.
  2. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-201.
  3. Welsh v. Welsh, 255 A.2d 368 (Md. 1969).
  4. Mayor of Ocean City v. Taber, 367 A.2d. 1233 (Md. 1977).
  5. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-105.
  6. Magraw v. Dillow, 671 A.2d 485 (Md. 1996).
  7. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-106.
  8. See Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  9. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-115.
  10. See Md. Code, Real Prop., §§ 2-105, et. seq.
  11. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-111; see also Magraw v. Dillow, 671 A.2d 485 (Md. 1996).
  12. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-202(b).
  13. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  14. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  15. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-116(d).
  16. See Reeside v. Annex Bldg. Assn., 167 A.2d 72 (Md. 1933).
  17. See Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-117.
  18. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  19. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-117.
  20. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-117.
  21. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  22. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(b).
  23. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-108(a).
  24. Bruce v. Dyer, 524 A.2d 777 (Md. 1987).
  25. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 5-105.
  26. See Md. Code, Real Prop. §§ 2-116; 14-112(b).
  27. See Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 14.5-502.
  28. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-202(c); 2-122(b).
  29. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 2-122(b).
  30. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-202.
  31. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-102.
  32. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-201.
  33. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-401.
  34. Md. Code, Est & Trst. §§ 3-403; 3-404(a).
  35. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-411.
  36. Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 3-406.
  37. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-301.
  38. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-103.
  39. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-104(a)(i).
  40. Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 3-703.
  41. Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 3-702; see also Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 3-701 (defining electronic document and electronic signature).
  42. Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 3-703.
  43. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-601(a)(2)(ii).
  44. Md. Code, Real Prop. §§ 3-601(a)(2)(iii)-(iv).
  45. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-104(b).
  46. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 13-202. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 12-102.
  47. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 13-203.
  48. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 12-103(a).
  49. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 14-104(b).
  50. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. §§ 13-208; 12-109(a).
  51. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. §§ 12-108(a)-(hh); 13-207(a)(1)-(26).
  52. Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 13-203(b)(2).
  53. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-104(a)(1)(iii).
  54. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-110(a).
  55. Md. Code, Real Prop. § 3-104(g)(2)(i).
  56. Md. Code, Tax–General § 10-912(b).
  57. See Md. Code, Real Prop. § 4-107; Md. Code, Est & Trst. § 14.5-910.