Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Form
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What is a Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Form?
A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed form is a type of deed that transfers the current owner’s interest in the property with no warranty of title.1 The new owner (the grantee) receives whatever property rights the current owner (the grantor) can legally transfer (if any), but the current owner does not guarantee a good title.2 The person who signs a quitclaim deed does not promise that the deed will give the transferee actual legal ownership of the property.
What is Warranty of Title?
Warranty of title is a guarantee built into some deeds. The current owner who is transferring the property gives the guarantee to the new owner who is taking title through the deed. A Pennsylvania deed that provides a complete warranty comes with several covenants of title—or promises about the property’s ownership status—that make up the warranty:
- Covenant of seisin. The current owner promises that he or she actually owns the property.
- Covenant of freedom from encumbrance. The current owner promises that there are no liens, mortgages, or other third-party interests that impair the property’s title.
- Covenant of quiet enjoyment. No third-party claims will disturb the new owner’s right to own and possess the property.
- Covenant of general warranty. The current owner accepts responsibility for the transferred title and will defend the new owner’s title against legal claims by third parties.
Warranty of title provides the new owner with protection from title defects—problems with the property’s title that make it less valuable or more difficult to sell. Potential title problems include (for example) liens or mortgages, errors in prior deeds, boundary disputes, and adverse third-party claims against the property.
A Pennsylvania deed can provide its warranty through covenants expressly written in the deed or by using key phrases that incorporate into the deed covenants that are defined by Pennsylvania law.3
Warranty of Title and Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Forms
A defining feature of Pennsylvania quitclaim deeds is that they include no covenants of title and therefore provide no warranty of title. A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed simply releases to the transferee whatever ownership interest the transferor holds. The transferor’s interest (if any) passes to the transferee subject to any problems with the property’s title.
If the transferor has no legal interest in the property, a quitclaim deed transfers nothing to the transferee. The transferee cannot sue the transferor under the quitclaim deed because the deed did not guarantee a good title.4
Other Names for a Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Form
Pennsylvania law uses the name quitclaim deed for deeds that transfer the current owner’s interest in property with no warranty. The term may also be written as quit claim deed or as quit-claim deed—both of which are acceptable. Quickclaim deed is a common mistake but is not an actual legal term.
The name release deed is a synonym for quitclaim deed in some states.5 This is because the current owner is releasing to the new owner whatever interest the current owner has. Release deed is not a common term in Pennsylvania.
There are a few states where quitclaim deeds are disfavored due to interpretations of state real estate laws. Property owners in those states use deeds titled non-warranty deed or deed without warranty to transfer property without a warranty or covenants of title.6
Ordinary quitclaim deeds in a few other states include implied covenants. A property owner can use a quitclaim deed without covenant to disclaim implied covenants in those states.7
How do Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed differs from other Pennsylvania deed forms in two key ways:
- A quitclaim deed provides no warranty of title.
- A quitclaim deed transfers the current owner’s interest in the property—rather than the property itself.8
Pennsylvania recognizes other types of deeds that transfer the property itself and that provide the new owner with a partial warranty or a complete warranty.
Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Forms
A Pennsylvania special warranty deed form transfers real estate with a limited warranty (or special warranty).9 The current owner guarantees a good title, but the guarantee is limited because it only covers title issues that arose while the current owner owned the property. The new owner assumes the risk of any title problems that are based on something that occurred before the current owner took title.
Where quitclaim deeds place all risk on the new owner, special warranty deeds divide the risk of title problems between the current owner and the new owner. The party who bears the risk for a particular problem depends on when that problem arose. The transferor guarantees that there are no title problems based on anything he or she did (or failed to do).10 The new owner is responsible for anything else in the property’s chain of title.
Pennsylvania General Warranty Deed Forms
A Pennsylvania general warranty deed form transfers real estate with a complete warranty (or general warranty). The current owner guarantees a good, clear title, and the guarantee is not limited to problems that arose at any particular time.11 The general warranty is limited only to the extent the deed includes language that expressly reduces the warranty’s scope or excludes specific issues.
A Pennsylvania general warranty deed—sometimes called simply warranty deed—places all risk of title problems on the new owner. If a title problem emerges, the transferor who signed the warranty deed has a legal duty to cover any financial loss that the new owner sustains. The new owner has a legal right to sue the transferor for breach of warranty to recover financial loss caused by the title problem.
Attorney Practice Note: Pennsylvania has a statutory deed form called a grant deed that provides the basic structure for a deed.12 The grant deed form—which is no longer commonly used in Pennsylvania real estate practice—includes alternate language for creation of a quitclaim deed, special warranty deed, or general warranty deed. The form is optional, and the statutory language alone does not address every requirement for a valid, recordable deed.
Title Insurance and Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deeds
An owner who takes title under a quitclaim deed bears a potentially large financial risk. For example, if there is an undisclosed lien on the property, the owner may need to pay off the lien to clear the property’s title. Or, if the person who signed the quitclaim deed did not, in fact, legally own the property, the transferee under the quitclaim deed may lose the property altogether.
A person who acquires Pennsylvania real estate can purchase title insurance to limit the risk of financial loss. Title insurance is an insurance policy that covers the risk of a financial loss if there are problems with a property’s title.13 The property owner or other insured person pays a premium payment to the insurance company—typically a single payment at closing. In return, the insurer compensates the owner if an unknown lien, chain-of-title defect, superior third-party ownership claim, or other title problem emerges.
Quitclaim Deeds and Other Pennsylvania Deeds Used in Estate Planning
Pennsylvania real estate law recognizes other types of deeds that are designed to avoid probate when the owner dies. Estate-planning deeds are named for the probate-avoidance features—rather than for their warranty of title. One Pennsylvania deed could be both a quitclaim deed and one of the following estate-planning deeds that Pennsylvania authorizes.
Pennsylvania Life Estate Deed
A Pennsylvania life estate deed form creates two distinct ownership interests in the same real estate. The first interest—called the life estate—gives the interest holder (the life tenant) the right to own the property for life. The second interest—called the remainder—gives the interest holder (the remainder beneficiary) a vested right to own the property in the future when the life tenant dies.14 An owner who creates a Pennsylvania life estate deed can quitclaim the life estate to himself or herself and give the remainder to the owner’s spouse, child, or another family member.
Pennsylvania Survivorship Deed
A Pennsylvania survivorship deed form creates a right of survivorship between two or more co-owners. That means that a surviving co-owner automatically receives a deceased owner’s share without probate.15
A current property owner can avoid probate by creating a quitclaim deed that transfers the property to the owner and a new co-owner. The deed must expressly choose a form of co-ownership with a right of survivorship. Pennsylvania has two co-ownership forms with a right of survivorship—joint tenancy with right of survivorship and (for married co-owners only) tenancy by the entirety.
If the new co-owner outlives the original owner, the property will automatically transfer to that person at the original owner’s death. This approach should only be used if the owner is comfortable giving away part of the property during the owner’s life.
Pennsylvania Transfer-on-Death Deed
In states where they are recognized, transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds name a beneficiary who will take title when the owner dies. While the owner is still living, a TOD deed does not limit the owner’s rights in the property—such as the right to sell or mortgage the property or revoke the TOD deed. Pennsylvania law does not authorize TOD deeds, so a property owner cannot use a TOD deed to transfer Pennsylvania real estate when the owner dies.
Attorney Practice Note: Although Pennsylvania does not authorize TOD deeds, property owners can use other estate-planning strategies to accomplish similar goals. For example, a revocable living trust lets an owner retain possession and control of the property until death and avoid probate.
Common Uses of Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Forms
Property owners most commonly use Pennsylvania quitclaim deeds for transfers in which the new owner provides little or no consideration in exchange for the property. A deed that retitles Pennsylvania property without changing its actual control or that transfers title to a family member is often a quitclaim deed.
A Pennsylvania property owner might use a quitclaim deed in any of the following scenarios:
- Create a joint tenancy. An owner can use a quitclaim deed to create a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety between the owner and another person as co-owners.16
- Divorce deed. Married or formerly married co-owners can use a quitclaim deed to divide property under a divorce decree or property settlement agreement.17
- Gift deed. An owner can use a quitclaim deed to transfer Pennsylvania real estate to a family member as a gift.18
- Deed to trust. An owner can use a quitclaim deed to transfer legal title to real estate to a revocable living trust created as part of the owner’s estate plan.19
How to Create a Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed
A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed form needs to transfer property with no warranty of title under the terms intended by the parties. Like other Pennsylvania deeds, quitclaim deeds must also comply with Pennsylvania’s general rules for all deeds.
Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Requirements
Pennsylvania quitclaim deeds nearly always state that the current owner “releases and quitclaims” the property to the new owner. Pennsylvania law assumes that a deed with those keywords in its granting clause is a quitclaim deed that transfers property with no covenants of title.20 Pennsylvania quitclaim deeds need not disclaim covenants or warranty of title, but an express disclaimer helps avoid ambiguity.
A quitclaim deed should also avoid keywords that result in implied covenants of title under Pennsylvania law.21 Keywords that create implied covenants are:
- Grant and convey;
- Bargain and sell;
- Warrant generally; and
- Warrant specially.
Pennsylvania General Deed Requirements
Pennsylvania real estate law outlines certain requirements that every Pennsylvania deed must meet to be effective and eligible for recording. Precise requirements can vary by location. Pennsylvania’s recording requirements for deeds include:
- Identification of parties. A deed must contain the current owner’s and new owner’s legal names and the new owner’s residential address and mailing address.22
- Consideration. Every deed must list the deed’s consideration in the deed itself or in an attached statement of value on the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s form.23
- Property description. A deed must have a valid legal description of the property and its tax parcel number if assigned by the county.24
- Notarized signature. The property owner making the transfer must sign and acknowledge the deed before a notary or another authorized officer.25
Pennsylvania’s deed-formatting rules are set at the county level—though most counties use the document standards adopted by the Pennsylvania Recorders of Deeds Association. Some recorders have county-specific rules, so it is a good idea to check with the county recording office if there is any doubt about a county’s requirements.
Selecting a Pennsylvania Quitclaim Deed Form
A deed must accomplish the parties’ intended transfer terms—which sometimes requires customization. For example, a deed that names two or more new owners should include their preferred form of co-ownership.26 Pennsylvania law assumes that a deed transfers all rights and interests of the person signing the deed, but a deed can expressly provide for a lesser interest or reserve rights to the transferor.27
There can be substantial differences in real estate laws between states. A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed form needs to be tailored to Pennsylvania law. A deed based on another state’s system may be invalid or ineligible for recording or have unintended legal effects under Pennsylvania law.
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- 21 Penn. Stat. § 7.
- Greek Catholic Congregation of Borough of Olyphant v. Plummer, 32 A.2d 299 (Pa. 1943).
- See 21 Penn. Stat. § 4 (covenants of seisin, freedom from encumbrance, and quiet enjoyment in deed with the words grant and convey); and 21 Penn. Stat. § 5 (covenant of general warranty in deed with the words warrant generally).
- Greek Catholic Congregation of Borough of Olyphant v. Plummer, 32 A.2d 299 (Pa. 1943) (“One who receives a quit-claim deed … must proceed with caution [because] he has eliminated only one person who might bar his ingress to that property.).
- See, e.g., Henningsen v. Stromberg, 221 P.2d 438 (Mont. 1950).
- See, e.g., Tex. Prop. Code § 5.023 (covenants implied “unless the conveyance expressly provides otherwise”).
- See 33 Maine Rev. Stat. § 775(4).
- Stewart v. Chernicky, 439 Pa. 43 (Pa. 1970).
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 6.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 8.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 5.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 1.
- 40 Penn. Stat. § 910-1.
- In re Dickson Estate, 105 A.2d 156 (Pa. 1954).
- Gen. Credit Co. v. Cleck, 609 A.2d 553, 556 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1992).
- Pennsylvania Bank and Trust Co. v. Thompson, 247 A.2d 771 (Penn. 1968).
- See 23 Pa. C.S. § 3508.
- See 72 Penn. Stat. § 8101-C.
- 20 Pa. C.S. § 7731.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 7.
- See 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 4; 5; 6; and 8.
- 16 Penn. Stat. §§ 9781; 9851.
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8109-C(a).
- See 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 332; 358(1).
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 42; 444.
- 68 Penn. Stat. § 110.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 3.