Definition of a Quitclaim Deed

Typically, the owner or co-owner of a property uses a quitclaim deed to relinquish ownership rights to said property in the event of divorce, inheritance or as a gift. Sometimes erroneously referred to as a “quick claim” deed, the deed only transfers whatever property ownership or title the grantor has to the recipient of the deed (the grantee) at the time the deed is transferred. Hence, the term “quit claim.”

Legal Scope of a Typical Quitclaim Deed

Below are eight legal points to understand about filing a quitclaim that you should know about:

·      The quitclaim deed does not necessarily rest on a general warranty – that is, a government-backed legal assurance that the original grantor’s ownership of the property is true. So in theory, a “vacant” quitclaim deed can be made of nonexistent property, where the grantee receives nothing.  

·      In a standard real estate purchase, the buyer typically receives a warranty deed, not a quitclaim deed, that is usually attached to title insurance, as is often required by bank lenders.  

·      Legally, the real estate buyer who has received a quitclaim deed is notified that the title has flaws, and is not as legally protected as the buyer of a warranty deed to the property.

·      A quitclaim deed may be used to create a co-owner, such as a spouse, of the property. At the same time, a quitclaim deed may be filed to relinquish property to a former spouse who is gaining the property under a divorce settlement. Check with a lawyer on how to minimize inheritance or taxation issues in such cases.  

·      A quitclaim or similar transfer-to-third party deed does not release the grantor from mortgage payment liability. Although the bank lender may “free” the grantor from paying the mortgage when a quitclaim is drawn up, the borrower/grantor can’t automatically transfer the debt to the grantee when the quitclaim deed is made. It’s common for mortgage contracts to prohibit all property transfers without the bank lender’s consent.  

·      In most states, the quitclaim deed is sensitive to the timing of when the deed is drawn up. If person A draws up a quitclaim deed transferring his grandmother’s property to person B, before A inherits said property, B does not ever have a claim to the property, even if and when A inherits the title of the property afterward.

·      Presenting the quitclaim deed to the recorder’s office or local courthouse only issues public notice of the grantor’s claim to and transfer of the relevant property. It, in no way, certifies the grantor’s ownership or title to the property.  

·      When the grantor is a co-owner of said property, only his or her stake in the property is transferred to the grantee in a quitclaim deed. When county/state law requires that all co-owners sign the deed, the deed is only “active” when all co-owners have accordingly done so and delivered the deed to the grantee. In cases where the signature of only one co-signer can legitimize the deed, and the grantee takes physical possession of the property, then an adverse possession claim to the whole property has been created.  

In the United States, the deed is typically used to create an “easy transfer” of property between spouses who marry, or divorce, depending on the ease of tax ramifications of the transaction, according to county and state law. This explanation of the finer definition and legal scope of a quitclaim deed is only a general guide and is no substitute for qualified legal advice. For more information about quitclaim deeds, or for legal advice pertaining to other areas such as personal injury, criminal defense, or medical malpractice, please contact Singh & Rani, LLP by visiting our website or calling 212-729-6920.


Bikram Singh

Mr. Singh has been practicing law in the New York State and Federal Courts for more than 11 years. He was a principal attorney at Bikram Singh Law, P.C., after graduating with honors from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in 2008.