Missouri Special Warranty Deed Form

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What Is a Missouri Special Warranty Deed Form?

A Missouri real estate owner can transfer title to a new owner by signing and recording a written deed.1 Missouri recognizes several types of deeds that are distinguished by the warranty of title each deed provides to the new owner. A Missouri special warranty deed form transfers Missouri real estate with a limited warranty of title.

When signing a special warranty deed, the current owner (the grantor) guarantees that he or she has done nothing to prevent the deed from conveying clear title to the new owner (the grantee).2 The grantor makes no promises about anything that may have happened while earlier owners held title to the property. In other words, a special warranty deed’s guarantee covers the current owner’s ownership period but not before.

What Is Warranty of Title?

A warranty of title is a guarantee provided by some types of deeds. The guarantee is essentially the current owner’s legally enforceable promise that there are no problems with the property’s title. Title problems covered by a warranty of title could include outstanding liens, mortgages, assessments, property taxes, boundary disputes, or chain-of-title ambiguity caused by an error in an earlier deed. A warranty of title gives the new owner the right to sue the prior owner for breach of warranty if a title problem is discovered.

A Missouri deed that transfers property with complete warranty of title (a warranty deed) includes a guarantee that covers all undisclosed title issues that arose at any point in the property’s ownership history.3 The warranty of title that a Missouri special warranty deed provides is limited because it only covers title issues that arose while the current owner owned the property.

Attorney Practice Note: A warranty of title is made up of one or more covenants of title from the current owner. Covenants of title can be expressly written in the deed or implied by statute if the deed includes certain words.4 A Missouri deed that provides a complete warranty of title ordinarily includes the following covenants:

  • The current owner holds complete title when signing the deed.
  • The current owner has the legal power to transfer the property to the new owner.
  • There are no liens, assessments, taxes, or other third-party interests (encumbrances) affecting the property.
  • The current owner will take actions or sign documents needed to further assure the new owner’s title to the property.
  • The current owner will be legally responsible for all undisclosed title problems and will defend the title against third-party claims.5

A special warranty deed’s covenants have a limitation so that they apply only to issues caused or allowed by the current owner. The current owner’s duty to defend the title applies only to third-party claims rooted in events that occurred while the current towner held title.

Other Names for a Missouri Special Warranty Deed Form

Missouri uses the name special warranty deed for a deed that provides a limited warranty of title. Many other states also use the name special warranty deed, but a few states use different names. Names that other states use include:

Each of these names refers to a deed form that provides a limited warranty that covers the current owner’s ownership period.

How Do Missouri Special Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?

The name special warranty deed deals exclusively with the limited warranty of title the deed provides. Missouri recognizes two other types of deeds with names based on their warranty of title (or lack of warranty). Where a special warranty deed splits the risk of title problems, Missouri’s other deed forms place all risk on either the current owner or the new owner.

Missouri Warranty Deed Form

A Missouri warranty deed form–often called a general warranty deed form—transfers real estate with a complete warranty of title. The current owner who signs a warranty deed is responsible for all title problems not specifically excluded by the deed. The deed’s guarantee covers the property’s entire ownership history—including before the current owner owned the property.6

Missouri Quitclaim Deed Form

A Missouri quitclaim deed form transfers whatever ownership interest the current owner holds with no warranty of title.7 The new owner accepts the property “as is” and bears the risk of any problems with the property’s title. The current owner gives no guarantee that the property’s title is clear or that he or she actually owns the property.

Missouri Title Insurance and Special Warranty Deeds

The protection offered by a special warranty deed is often supplemented by a title insurance policy for the property being transferred. Title insurance is a contract with an insurance company that shifts the risk of problems with a property’s title to the insurer. If a title problem is discovered after the policy is issued, the insurance company compensates the insured person (usually the owner or a mortgage lender) for any financial loss that the title problem causes.

Missouri Special Warranty Deed Forms and Other Missouri Deeds Used in Estate Planning

Missouri also recognizes two other types of deeds that are often used in estate plans. While a special warranty deed is named for its limited warranty of title, the estate-planning deeds are named for the approach they use to allow real estate to avoid probate.

Missouri Beneficiary Deeds

A Missouri beneficiary deed form allows an owner to retain complete control of real estate for life and pass title to one or more beneficiaries at death without probate.8 As long as the owner is alive, he or she can sell or transfer the property or change or revoke the beneficiary deed.9 A Missouri beneficiary deed is the equivalent of what many states call a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed.

Missouri Life Estate Deeds

A Missouri life estate deed form divides ownership into two distinct interests:

  • Life estate. The life estate gives the interest holder (the life tenant) a lifetime ownership interest in the property.
  • Remainder. The remainder gives the interest holder (the remainder beneficiary) ownership of the property after the life tenant dies.

A property owner who records a life estate deed often keeps the life estate and transfers the remainder to a family member. Because the remainder is a vested interest once the deed is created, the life tenant (the original owner) cannot sell or transfer the property without the remainder beneficiary’s consent. When the life tenant dies, the remainder beneficiary automatically takes title with no need for probate.

The names life estate deed and special warranty deed refer to different features that can coexist in the same deed. Thus, a life estate deed can also be a special warranty deed—or a warranty deed or quitclaim deed—depending on the language it includes for the warranty of title.

Common Uses of Missouri Special Warranty Deed Forms

Special warranty deeds are used most often in commercial real estate transactions where the property is being sold to an unrelated third party for adequate consideration. Special warranty deeds are also common for transfers that do not change actual possession of the property—such as an owner’s transfer to a living trust or an LLC that is owned or controlled by the original owner. A special warranty deed provides a continued connection to the original owner that may help keep title insurance coverage in place.

How to Create a Missouri Special Warranty Deed

A Missouri special warranty deed must be carefully prepared to ensure that it includes the correct vesting and warranty language to transfer the property under the terms agreed by the parties. Special warranty deeds often use the words “grant, bargain, and sell” to incorporate statutory covenants—with additional language clarifying the limited scope of the warranty.10 A deed can alternatively use express covenants of warranty that fully describe the limited warranty within the text of the deed itself. 11

A special warranty deed must also meet the legal requirements that apply to all Missouri deeds. Among other requirements, a Missouri deed must be correctly formatted and it must include:

  • The parties’ names and the transferor’s marital status;
  • A valid legal description of the property;
  • The transferor’s notarized signature; and
  • The co-ownership form the new owners will use (if the need names multiple new owners).

A Missouri special warranty deed must be designed to comply with Missouri law. A deed that is effective in another state may be invalid or unrecordable in Missouri. Imprecise language—even a single careless phrase—may result in a transfer under terms not intended by the parties. This can cause future title issues and necessitate costly legal fees to clear the property’s title.

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  1. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 442.020.
  2. City of Gainesville v. Gilliland, 718 S.W.2d 553 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986).
  3. Hillman v. Hedgpeth, 600 S.W.2d 625 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980).
  4. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 442.420 (use of the words “grant, bargain, and sell” within a Missouri deed results in three implied covenants).
  5. A. C. Drinkwater v. Ellot H. Raffety, 495 S.W.2d 450, 455 (Mo. Ct. App. 1973).
  6. Hillman v. Hedgpeth, 600 S.W.2d 625 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980).
  7. Thompson v. Chase Manhattan Mortg. Corp., 90 S.W.3d 194 (Mo. Ct. App. 2002).
  8. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 461.031(3).
  9. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 461.027; 461.033(1).
  10. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 442.420.
  11. See, e.g., Wooten v. Friedberg, 355 Mo. 756 (Mo. 1946).