What is a Wisconsin General Warranty Deed Form?
A Wisconsin general warranty deed form—or just warranty deed—is a real estate deed under which the current owner contracts to warrant the transferred real estate’s title.1 An owner who contracts to warrant a property’s title conveys the real estate with a warranty of title.
Under Wisconsin law, a warranty of title consists of a series of promises from the current owner—the grantor—to the new owner—the grantee—regarding the quality of the title transferred by a deed.2 Unless an individual deed modifies the warranty, a property owner executing a Wisconsin general warranty deed promises that:
- The current owner lawfully owns and has the right to transfer the real estate;
- The new owner will have quiet enjoyment of the property—that is, that no third party’s claim will interrupt the new owner’s right of possession;
- The real estate is free from undisclosed liens and other title problems; and
- The current owner will guarantee and defend the new owner’s title and right to possess the real estate against lawful claims arising before the deed.3
A current owner’s warranty does not apply to open and notorious easements or public building, zoning, or use restrictions.4
Wisconsin law treats a warranty deed’s warranty as a contract between the current and new owners.5 The new owner can pursue a breach of warranty claim against the prior owner if the new owner later learns that the real estate has a defective title.6 Title defects might include undisclosed liens, third-party claims on the title, or an earlier faulty conveyance resulting in an ambiguous chain of title.7
Other Names for a Wisconsin General Warranty Deed Form
A deed that provides a warranty of title with no restrictions is called a general warranty deed—often shortened to warranty deed. Wisconsin courts favor the term warranty deed, though general warranty deed helps distinguish from special warranty deeds—another deed form recognized in Wisconsin.8 Special warranty deeds provide a warranty of title limited to the period during which the current owner held title.
Some states use the term statutory warranty deed interchangeably with general warranty deed. A statutory warranty deed transfers real estate with a warranty of title derived from short-form deed language prescribed by statute.9 Statutory warranty deed is an imperfect synonym for warranty deed in Wisconsin because Wisconsin’s warranty deed statute does not suggest specific deed language.
How do Wisconsin General Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
Wisconsin warranty deeds place the risk of unknown title problems on the current owner who issues the deed. The warranty is like a contract, and the new owner has legal recourse against the current owner if a title defect emerges later. Damages in a successful breach of warranty action are measured as the amount necessary to put the new owner in a financial position as if no breach had occurred.10 If a conveyance fails because the person executing the deed did not legitimately hold title—for example—the would-be new owner can recover the purchase price plus interest.11
Wisconsin recognizes two other deed forms that apportion the risk of title defects differently—either solely to the new owner or shared between the parties.
Wisconsin Warranty Deed Form vs. Wisconsin Special Warranty Deed Form
A Wisconsin special warranty deed form allocates the risk of title defects between the current owner and the new owner—depending on when an issue arose. The current owner bears the risk for defects based on events that occurred while the current owner owned the property. The new owner bears the risk for defects rooted elsewhere in the property’s chain of title.
Wisconsin does not specifically authorize special warranty deeds by statute. Special warranty deeds are instead based in common law, statutory authorization of warranty deeds, and the parties’ right to contractually modify the terms of the conveyance.12
Wisconsin General Warranty Deed Form vs. Wisconsin Quitclaim Deed
A Wisconsin quitclaim deed form transfers without warranty whatever interest the current owner has in the real estate.13 The current owner conveys the property essentially as-is, making no representations as to the quantity, quality, or existence of the title the deed transfers. The new owner bears all risk of title defects—regardless of when a defect arose.
Wisconsin Warranty Deed Form vs. Other Types of Wisconsin Deeds
Wisconsin recognizes a few additional deed forms named or differentiated by a deed’s purpose—rather than the warranty offered. For example, Wisconsin transfer on death deeds transfer Wisconsin real estate effective upon the owner’s death—allowing a property to bypass the owner’s probate estate.14 A personal representative’s deed conveys real estate from a deceased owner’s estate to a new owner without warranty in connection with formal probate proceedings.15 A personal representative deed is executed by a court-appointed executor or personal representative in connection with formal probate proceedings.
Common Uses of Wisconsin General Warranty Deed Forms
The most common scenario in which a Wisconsin property owner issues a warranty deed is when a new owner purchases real estate for fair market value in an arms-length transaction. Purchasers expending significant amounts want the protection a warranty deed provides—especially when the new owner is purchasing a home subject to a mortgage. A warranty deed gives the buyer some protection—in the form of a breach of warranty claim against the seller—if the acquired property’s title ends up being flawed or defective.
Sellers issuing warranty deeds can buy title insurance to protect against financial vulnerability resulting from unknown problems with a property’s title. Title insurance covers financial loss resulting from title defects like liens, adverse claims of third parties, or chain-of-title problems derived from a defective conveyance.16 Mortgage lenders typically require title insurance as a condition of financing a real estate purchase.
Wisconsin real estate transactions do not commonly use warranty deeds when a property is conveyed for minimal or no consideration. Owners gifting real estate to a close family member or modifying a property’s legal title without affecting actual control—for instance—typically use quitclaim deeds.
How to Create a Wisconsin General Warranty Deed
Wisconsin’s warranty deed statute does not provide a proposed form for warranty deeds. If the current owner issuing a deed “warrants the land or its title,” then the deed is considered a warranty deed.17 Wisconsin warranty deeds include the current owner’s four covenants discussed above—even if the deed does not expressly include those covenants.
Wisconsin warranty deeds must include language indicating that the current owner does in fact warrant the identified real estate’s title. A warranty deed might—for example—declare that the current owner conveys the described real estate to the new owner and “warrants that the title is good, indefeasible in fee simple and free and clear of encumbrances … and will warrant and defend the same.”18 A deed that does not express the current owner’s intent to warrant the real estate’s title does not create a warranty deed or include any other covenants not expressly written in the deed.19
Along with clearly specifying that the current owner intends to warrant the property’s title, a Wisconsin warranty deed must satisfy the requirements that apply to all Wisconsin deeds. A warranty deed must—among other things—have the proper page size and margins, and its first page must have the correct arrangement.20 A register of deeds may reject and refuse to record a deed that is incorrectly formatted.21
A Wisconsin warranty deed must also include certain necessary content, including
- The names of the current owner and new owner;22
- An adequate legal description of the property;23
- The name of the person responsible for drafting the deed;24 and
- Any material terms or conditions of the conveyance.25
The requirements for a valid, recordable Wisconsin deed are unique to the state. A deed form transferring Wisconsin real estate must be drafted to comply with Wisconsin law and accurately set forth the parties’ agreed terms of the conveyance. A faulty deed may be rejected by the register of deeds, produce transfer terms not intended by the parties, or lead to a failed transfer that causes future problems with the property’s chain of title.
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(5).
- Wis. Stat. §706.01(6).
- Schorsch v. Blader, 563 NW 2d 538 (Wis. App. 1997); citing Wis. Stat. §706.10(5).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(5).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(5).
- See, e.g., Conrad v. Trustees of the Grand Grove of the U.A.O.D., 25 N.W. 24 (Wis. 1885).
- See, e.g., Badger Mining Corp. v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., No. 29-cv-840-wmc (W.D. Wis. 2021).
- See, e.g., Lucareli v. Lucareli, 614 NW 2d 60 (Wis. 2000).
- See, e.g., Chaney v. Haeder, 752 P.2d 854 (Or. Ct. App., 1988).
- Schorsch v. Blader, 563 NW 2d 538 (Wis. App. 1997).
- Conrad v. Trustees of the Grand Grove of the U.A.O.D., 25 N.W. 24 (Wis. 1885).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(1) and (5).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(4).
- Wis. Stat. §705.15(4).
- See Wis. Stat. §860.01; Wis. Stat. §860.07.
- See Badger Mining Corp. v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., No. 29-cv-840-wmc (W.D. Wis. 2021).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(5).
- See Lucareli v. Lucareli, 614 NW 2d 60 (Wis. 2000).
- Wis. Stat. §706.10(6).
- Wis. Stat. §59.43(2m).
- Wis. Stat. §59.43(2m)(a) and (b).
- Wis. Stat. §706.02(1)(a).
- Wis. Stat. §706.02(1)(b).
- Wis. Stat. §59.43(5)(a).
- Wis. Stat. §706.02(1)(c).