Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Form

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What is a Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Form?

A Massachusetts property owner transfers ownership of real estate by delivering a written, signed deed.1 A Massachusetts quitclaim deed is the most common type of deed for real estate transfers in Massachusetts. Quitclaim deeds transfer property with a partial warranty of title—splitting the risk of unknown title problems between the current owner (the grantor or transferor) and the new owner (the grantee or transferee).2

Quitclaim deeds in most states provide no warranty and place all risk of title problems on the new owner. Massachusetts quitclaim deeds are distinct in that they include quitclaim covenants—which guarantee that the current owner did nothing to impair the property’s title.3 A deed that transfers Massachusetts real estate with no warranty of title is called a release deed.4

Attorney Practice Note: Massachusetts quitclaim deeds are the equivalent of what most states call special warranty deeds or limited warranty deeds. Those types of deeds transfer real estate with a partial warranty that covers title problems that arose while the transferor owned the property.

What Is Warranty of Title?

Warranty of title is a guarantee regarding the quality of a transferred property’s title. The transferor makes one or more legal promises—called covenants of title—which make up the warranty. Covenants of title may be expressly written in a deed, or they may be implied by law based on the type of deed or specific key phrases in the deed.5

A Massachusetts deed that provides complete warranty of title—called a general warranty—includes four related covenants of title:

  1. The transferor holds complete title to the property.
  2. The property is free from encumbrances—title defects like unpaid HOA assessments, mechanic’s liens, or mortgages.
  3. The transferor has the legal right to transfer ownership to the new owner.
  4. The transferor will stand behind the property’s title and defend the transferred title against legal claims brought by third parties.6

Warranty of title protects the new owner from financial loss caused by title problems. The new owner can recover breach-of-warranty damages from the transferor if a covenant is inaccurate or the transferor fails to do something that is required by the warranty. For example, the new owner can sue the prior owner for the cost of removing an undisclosed lien from the property.7

Warranty of Title and Massachusetts Quitclaim Deeds

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed form transfers property with a partial warranty. The warranty consists of quitclaim covenants—which are limited covenants of title that Massachusetts law implies in quitclaim deeds.8 Massachusetts quitclaim deeds guarantee that:

  • The new owner will receive the entire interest the transferor owns (unless the deed provides for a lesser interest);
  • There are no undisclosed problems with the property’s title caused by the transferor; and
  • The transferor will defend the transferred property’s title against third-party claims rooted in the transferor’s ownership of the property.9

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed’s warranty covers title problems that the transferor caused or allowed. The warranty does not guarantee a perfect title or that the transferor’s ownership claim is superior to all other possible claims.10 This is because title problems that arose before the transferor took title are beyond the scope of a quitclaim deed’s warranty.

Attorney Practice Note: Massachusetts law requires property owners who are transferring title to inform the transferee of any liens, mortgages, judgments, or other encumbrances to the extent the owner is aware of any that affect the property.11 The disclosure can be in the form of exceptions written in the deed.

Other Names for a Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Form

Quitclaim deeds in most states have no covenants of title. In Massachusetts, a deed with no covenants of title is called a release deed.12 A Massachusetts quitclaim deed provides limited covenants of title–which Massachusetts calls quitclaim covenants. Most states use the terms special warranty deed or limited warranty deed for deeds with limited covenants.13

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed is typically titled Quitclaim Deed. However, there are other types of Massachusetts deeds that can also be quitclaim deeds, so a quitclaim deed might have a title like Life Estate Deed or Trustee’s Deed, or sometimes simply Deed. The essential feature for a Massachusetts quitclaim deed is that it transfers the property with quitclaim covenants.14

How Do Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?

A property owner who signs a Massachusetts quitclaim deed form typically grants the property to the new owner with quitclaim covenants.15 The current owner guarantees a good title, but the guarantee covers only potential issues that arose while the current owner held title.16 The current owner takes no position about anything earlier in the property’s chain of title.

By providing a warranty with a limited scope, a Massachusetts quitclaim deed effectively splits the title-related risk between the current owner and the new owner. Other types of deeds recognized in Massachusetts allow the parties to distribute the risk differently.

Massachusetts Warranty Deed Form

A transferor who uses a Massachusetts warranty deed form typically grants the property to the new owner with warranty covenants.17 Warranty covenants provide complete warranty of title.18 The current owner guarantees a clear title and guarantees that no third party can assert a superior claim on the property.19

A warranty deed provides a stronger warranty than a quitclaim deed because the warranty extends throughout the property’s entire history. It covers all potential title issues unless expressly excluded in the deed. The property owner who signs the deed bears all risk of unknown title problems that exist as of the date of the deed.20

Massachusetts Release Deed Form

A Massachusetts release deed form—also called deed of quitclaim and release—includes no covenants of title and therefore gives the new owner no protection against title problems.21 The new owner receives whatever ownership interest the transferor can legally transfer. There is no guarantee whatsoever about the status or validity of the property’s title. The new owner therefore bears all title-related risk.

A Massachusetts release deed is legally capable of transferring the same title or interest that a property owner could transfer with another type of deed.22 However, release deeds are mostly used for transfers that involve no consideration—or payment given in exchange for the property. Owners rarely use release deeds for market-value transfers. They are more common when a deed involves related parties (such as a married owner adding a spouse to the title) or when a deed does not affect actual possession of the property (such as an owner placing legal title in a living trust).

Attorney Practice Note: A Massachusetts deed includes implied covenants only if it mentions warranty covenants or quitclaim covenants.23 The word grant—which is frequently found in the vesting language of Massachusetts deeds—results in no implied covenants by itself.24 A Massachusetts deed that grants property to a new owner and that has no express or implied covenants can function like a release deed without actually using the word release.

Title Insurance and Massachusetts Quitclaim Deeds

A property owner who takes title through a Massachusetts quitclaim deed can purchase title insurance for supplemental protection from the risk of title problems. A title insurance policy is a contract under which the insurer agrees to carry the financial risk of title problems.25

The title insurance company charges a premium and, in return, promises to reimburse the insured person–typically a property owner or lender–for any financial loss that results from title problem. A title policy covers financial loss from issues like lost or defective documents, previously unknown liens, or conflicting ownership claims from third parties. Title insurance policies also cover legal fees incurred in defending a covered property’s title.

Before issuing a policy, the insurance company arranges for a professional examination of the property’s title—which increases the likelihood that title problems are identified before closing.

Quitclaim Deeds and Other Massachusetts Deeds Used in Estate Planning

Massachusetts law recognizes several types of deeds that are commonly used in estate planning. Quitclaim deeds can be combined with estate-planning deeds to arrange assets efficiently for future transfer. The estate-planning deeds described below are often prepared as Massachusetts quitclaim deeds but can also be warranty deeds or release deeds.

Massachusetts Life Estate Deed Form

A Massachusetts life estate deed separates legal ownership of real estate into two complementary interests—or estates. The first interest (the life estate) gives the holder (the life tenant) ownership for the rest of his or her life. The second interest (the remainder) gives the holder (the remainderman or remainder beneficiary) the future right to the real estate after the life tenant dies.26

An owner who creates a Massachusetts life estate deed for an estate plan typically keeps the life estate and gives the remainder to a child or other family member. That arrangement allows the owner to own the property for life and to eventually transfer it to the named beneficiary without going through probate. The most notable disadvantage of a traditional life estate deed is that a life tenant can transfer only the life estate—not complete title to the property.27 A life tenant can transfer complete title only if the remainder beneficiary also signs the deed to transfer the remainder.28

Massachusetts Enhanced Life Estate Deed Form

An enhanced life estate deed—informally called a Ladybird deed—is a relatively uncommon variation on the traditional life estate deed. The difference is that an owner who creates an enhanced life estate deed specifically reserves the power to sell, transfer, or mortgage the property until the owner’s death.

Only a handful of states authorize enhanced life estate deeds. Massachusetts law governing enhanced life estates is not fully developed. The concept of an enhanced life estate deed has been upheld in Massachusetts recently as a life estate deed with special power of appointment.29 The Land Court Guidelines published by the Massachusetts Land Court also suggest that a life estate deed that reserves to the life tenant the power to sell or mortgage the property is valid in Massachusetts.30

Attorney Practice Note: Transfer-on-Death Deeds: Transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds name a beneficiary to take title without probate, effective only when the owner dies. A TOD deed is created, signed, and recorded during the owner’s life but has no legal effect while the owner is still living. The owner keeps the same right to sell, mortgage, or transfer the property (or revoke the TOD deed) as if the TOD had not been recorded.

Massachusetts law does not recognize TOD deeds. A property owner can sometimes accomplish a similar objective using a living trust or life estate deed.

Massachusetts Survivorship Deed Form

A Massachusetts survivorship deed names two or more co-owners who jointly hold title subject to a right of survivorship. When co-owners have a right of survivorship, a deceased co-owner’s interest passes directly to the surviving co-owner and bypasses probate. Survivorship deeds in Massachusetts can designate the co-owners as joint tenants with right of survivorship or (if they are married spouses) as tenants by the entirety.

A property owner who wants to use a survivorship deed for an estate plan can record a quitclaim deed that names the owner and a family member—typically the owner’s spouse or child—as the new joint owners.31 When one of the co-owners dies, the surviving owner receives the deceased owner’s share, and the property avoids probate. The survivor confirms the ownership change in the land records by recording a notarized survivorship affidavit with the deceased co-owner’s date of death or a certified copy of the death certificate.32

Common Uses of Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Forms

Massachusetts quitclaim deeds are the most common form of deed for transferring Massachusetts real estate, and they can be used in many contexts. Quitclaim deeds can transfer purchased property and are also useful for estate-planning transfers that involve little or no consideration.

For example, an owner might use a Massachusetts quitclaim deed to:

  • Transfer property to a trust;33
  • Add a co-owner to create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety;34
  • Divide real estate assets in a divorce case; or
  • Transfer property from an LLC to the owners of the entity or vice versa.

How to Create a Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed must generally do three things:

  1. It must transfer property with partial warranty of title.
  2. It must comply with Massachusetts laws that govern all deeds.
  3. It must accurately reflect the transfer terms intended by the parties.

Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Requirements

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed form must use language that results in a transfer with quitclaim covenants.35 This can be accomplished by expressly writing the covenants into the deed or by using the key phrase with quitclaim covenants that incorporates the quitclaim covenants by reference.36 A quitclaim deed designed for another state has different legal effects than a Massachusetts quitclaim deed, as most states’ quitclaim deeds have no covenants.

Massachusetts has a statutory form for quitclaim deeds.37 The statutory form has useful granting language describing the transfer but lacks some elements required for a valid Massachusetts deed.

Massachusetts General Deed Requirements

Massachusetts law prescribes certain conditions that all deeds must meet to be eligible for recording. The Massachusetts deed recording requirements address issues relating to formatting, content, and signing of deeds. Among other things, a Massachusetts deed must:

  • Identify the parties by name and address;38
  • Identify the full consideration given for the property;39
  • Provide a legal description of the property and list its street address and town or city;40 and
  • Include the notarized signature of the current owner who is transferring the property.41

Selecting a Massachusetts Quitclaim Deed Form

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed must accurately reflect the parties’ intended terms. A customized deed addresses issues like:

  • Specifying the form of co-ownership if the deed transfers title to multiple new owners;42
  • Describing a lesser ownership interest if the current owner wants to transfer less than complete ownership;43
  • Reserving any rights or interest the current owner wishes to keep; and
  • Identifying existing conditions, encumbrances, easements, or covenants the parties want to exclude from the scope of the deed’s warranty.44

A Massachusetts quitclaim deed form needs to be designed to work within the Massachusetts real estate system. A deed that is adequate in a different jurisdiction could be invalid in Massachusetts or result in unintended legal effects. A carelessly prepared deed may be ineligible for recording or cause future problems with the property’s title.

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  1. MA Gen L ch 183 § 1.
  2. MA Gen L ch 183 § 11.
  3. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 2).
  4. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 4).
  5. See MA Gen L ch 183 §§ 16, 17.
  6. MA Gen L ch 183 § 10.
  7. MA Gen L ch 184 § 22.
  8. MA Gen L ch 183 § 17.
  9. MA Gen L ch 183 § 11.
  10. Dalessio v. Baggia, 783 N.E.2d 890 (Mass. App. Ct. 2003).
  11. MA Gen L ch 184 § 21.
  12. See MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 4).
  13. See, e.g., Oreg. Rev. Stat. § 93.855; Ohio Rev. Code §5302.07. California calls them grant deeds. Cal. Civ. Code §1092; 1113.
  14. MA Gen L ch 183 § 17.
  15. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 2).
  16. MA Gen L ch 183 § 11.
  17. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 1).
  18. MA Gen L ch 183 § 10.
  19. Dalessio v. Baggia, 783 N.E.2d 890 (Mass. App. Ct. 2003).
  20. MA Gen L ch 183 § 16.
  21. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 4).
  22. MA Gen L ch 183 § 2.
  23. MA Gen L ch 183 §§ 10; 17.
  24. MA Gen L ch 183 § 12.
  25. MA Gen L ch 175 § 47(11).
  26. See MA Gen L ch 184 § 5.
  27. MA Gen L ch 184 § 9.
  28. MA Gen L ch 183 § 46.
  29. See Skye v. Hession, 91 Mass. App. Ct. 423 (Mass. App., 2017).
  30. See Land Court Guideline No. 28 (noting that a grantor who creates a life estate deed reserves “the right to use and occupy the real estate and … sometimes other rights such as the right to sell or mortgage, during the lives of the [life tenants]”).
  31. See MA Gen L ch 184 § 8.
  32. MA Gen L ch 183 § 5A.
  33. See MA Gen L ch 184 § 25(3).
  34. MA Gen L ch 184 § 7.
  35. MA Gen L ch 183 § 11.
  36. MA Gen L ch 183 § 17.
  37. MA Gen L ch 183, Appendix (Statutory Form 2).
  38. MA Gen L ch 183 § 6.
  39. MA Gen L ch 183 § 6.
  40. MA Gen L ch 183 §§ 6A; 6B; MA Gen L ch 36 § 14(a);
  41. MA Gen L ch 183 §§ 3; 29.
  42. MA Gen L ch 184 § 7.
  43. See MA Gen L ch 183 § 13.
  44. See, e.g., MA Gen L ch 184 § 21 (allowing a transferor to notify a transferee of existing encumbrances through exceptions in the deed).