The West Virginia Code governs the content and proper execution of deeds. West Virginia deeds must be formatted to conform to state law and customs observed by county clerks. The clerk’s office may reject a deed that does not conform, or the deed may result in a failed transfer.
Formatting Requirements for West Virginia Deeds
- Paper. A West Virginia deed’s pages must not exceed 8½ × 14 inches (legal size).1 Deeds typically use white paper of at least 20-pound weight. A deed’s text should appear on only one side of the paper.2
- Font size. Deeds should be printed in a font no smaller than 10 points, with at least 2 points separating each line.
- Ink. West Virginia deeds are usually printed in black ink. Signatures are usually written using black or dark blue ink.
- Margins. West Virginia law does not require specific margin sizes for deeds. County clerks recommend a 2-inch top margin for a deed’s first page and 1 inch for all other margins.
- Legibility. A deed must be legible enough to make clear copies and electronic images.
Content Requirements for West Virginia Deeds
- Current owner and new owner names. A deed must name the current owner transferring real estate (the grantor) and the new owner receiving title to the real estate (the grantee).3
- Legal description of property. A deed must include a valid legal description of the real estate the deed transfers.4 West Virginia does not require a property’s address to be included in a deed—though addresses are sometimes included by custom.
- Preparer’s name. At the end of the document, a deed must give the name of the person who prepared it.5 Deeds typically do so with the following suggested statement: “This instrument was prepared by (name).”
- Granting clause. A West Virginia deed must include a granting clause saying that the current owner intends to transfer the property to the new owner. The precise granting clause varies based on the type of deed and warranty of title (if any) the deed provides.6
- Declaration of consideration or value: A deed that requires payment of transfer tax must include a declaration of consideration or value on its first page or at the end of the document. 7 The declaration states the property’s value or the payment, called consideration, made for the property. The current owner, new owner, or another responsible party must sign the declaration. The West Virginia Code suggests language for a declaration of consideration or value.
- Statement of exemption. A deed that does not require payment of transfer tax should state the reason for the exemption. See 8
Signature Requirements for West Virginia Deeds
- Property owner’s signature. The current owner transferring property must sign a West Virginia deed.9 The county clerk cannot record an unsigned deed. An agent acting under power of attorney can sign a deed on the owner’s behalf if the owner has signed a power-of-attorney agreement giving the agent authority.10
- Notarization. The current owner must acknowledge the deed before a notary or other official.11 The West Virginia Code includes a suggested certificate of acknowledgment form for deeds.12 Instead of notarization, a deed may be proved by two witnesses appearing before the county clerk.13
- Homestead. West Virginia law does not say a non-owner spouse must sign a deed that transfers a homestead owned only by the other spouse.
- Spouse’s signature. A married property owner must provide notice to his or her spouse of certain real estate transfers.14 A non-owner spouse’s signature on a deed proves the owner did so. For this reason, title insurers often recommend that a non-owner spouse sign a deed transferring the other spouse’s West Virginia real estate.
- Electronic signature. If a deed is filed electronically, an electronic signature meets the requirement for a deed to be signed.15
Recording Fees and Forms for Recording West Virginia Deeds
- Recording deeds. West Virginia deeds are recorded with the clerk of the county commission—commonly called simply the county clerk—of the county where the property is located.16 West Virginia law allows county clerks to accept deeds for filing electronically or in paper format.17
- Recording fees. The basic filing fee to record a West Virginia deed is $27.00, which includes a $2.00 preservation fee.18 The clerk charges an extra $1.00 fee for each page beyond five pages. A deed transferring real estate for consideration costs an extra $20.00 fee.19
- West Virginia transfer tax. The state calls West Virginia’s transfer tax an excise tax on the privilege of transferring real property. It is paid to the county clerk when recording most real estate deeds.20 The tax amount is based on the property’s value and is charged at a rate of at least $1.65 per $500.00 of value.21 West Virginia law lets counties increase the rate further, so precise transfer tax rates vary by county.
- Transfer tax exemptions. Certain types of deeds do not require the transfer tax under the law’s definition of taxable “documents.”22 Exempt transfers are listed below.
- Sales listing form. A completed Sales Listing Form (STC 12:39) must be given to the county clerk when filing a deed.23 The form provides information about the property and its sale and is used to calculate property taxes.
- Income tax withholding for nonresident. If a nonresident of West Virginia sells a property in the state, the person responsible for closing must complete an Income Tax Withholding for Nonresident Sale of Real Property. The form relates to tax withholdings for gains resulting from the sale.
Deeds Exempt from West Virginia Transfer Tax
Some recorded documents do not require payment of West Virginia’s transfer tax, meaning they are exempt. An exempt deed should state the reason for the exemption on its first page. All exemptions are found within24 unless noted differently. The following are exempt documents:
- Transfers of real property whose value is $100 or less;
- Testamentary or inter vivos trusts;
- Deeds that divide property among joint owners;
- Deeds made due to mergers of corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, limited partnerships, or testamentary or inter vivos trusts;
- Deeds made due to conversions to limited liability companies from corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, or trusts;
- Deeds made by a subsidiary corporation to its parent corporation for no payment other than the cancellation or surrender of the subsidiary’s stock;
- Transfers between husband and wife;
- Transfers between parent and child or between parent and child and the child’s spouse, without payment;
- Transfers between grandparent and grandchild or between grandparent and grandchild and the grandchild’s spouse, without payment;
- Transfers without payment between an owner and someone who acts on his or her behalf for any purpose;
- Gifts to or transfers from or between voluntary charitable or educational associations or trustees of voluntary charitable or educational associations and like nonprofit corporations having the same or similar purposes;
- Quitclaim or corrective deeds without payment;
- Transfers to or from the United States, the State of West Virginia, or any of their organizations, agencies or political subdivisions, by gift, dedication, deed or condemnation proceedings;
- Mortgages or deeds of trust given as collateral for a debt;
- Transfer-on-death deeds25
- Deeds transferring property to a former spouse due to a divorce decree or property settlement agreement26
- W.Va. Code § 59-1-10.
- See W.Va. Code § 39-1-11.
- W.Va. Code § 39-2-2.
- W.Va. Code § 36-3-5; see also W.Va. Code § 36-3-5a (establishing legal description requirements for deed granting or reserving easement or right of way).
- W.Va. Code § 39-1-2A(a).
- See, e.g., W.Va. Code § 36-4-2; W.Va. Code § 36-4-3; W.Va. Code § 36-3-7.
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-6.
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-1(4).
- W.Va. Code § 39-1-2.
- W.Va. Code § 36-1-2; W.Va. Code § 36-1-8.
- W.Va. Code § 39-1-2; W.Va. Code § 39-1-3.
- W.Va. Code § 39-1-4.
- See W.Va. Code § 39-1-2.
- See W.Va. Code § 43-1-2.
- W.Va. Code § 39A-4-3(b).
- W.Va. Code § 39-1-11.
- W.Va. Code § 39A-4-4(b).
- W.Va. Code § 59-1-10(a)(1); W.Va. Code § 5A-8-15(h).
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-2(a).
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-2(a).
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-2(b).
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-1(4).
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-6.
- W.Va. Code § 11-22-1(4)
- (See W.Va. Code § 36-12-9(3));
- (See W.Va. Code § 48-7-109).