Written by attorney Thomas C Valkenet

Quit with the Quit Claim Deed, Already!

What the heck is a Quit Claim deed, anyway?

A deed is the paper that is filed in the Land Records as evidence of your ownership of land. In a normal sale transaction, the seller will include in that deed promises that the interest being sold is not burdened with liens or other interests. The deed normally has another promise that the seller will defend your title against others who might make claims against the title.

A "quit claim" deed does not have these basic promises. A quit claim deed makes no promises. In fact, the seller may not even have an interest to sell! It is just a document that says "whatever I have, if I have anything, I sell to you."

It should add "...and good luck."

Then who uses Quit Claim deeds?

There are legitimate uses for a quit claim deed. But in this troubled economy, it is most often used by homeowners trying to avoid a judgment lien, or a foreclosure. It is also used to add or remove relatives and friends from ownership.

Why doesn't a Quit Claim deed stop a foreclosure?

The foreclosure action is enforcing the terms of the deed of trust that was recorded when the loan was made. That deed of trust is a lien on the property. That lien is first in line, before the quit claim deed. So, whomever gets the quit claim deed is also accepting that the deed of trust remains a lien on the real property. The bank still gets to foreclose.

Can I add or remove a co-owner with a Quit Claim deed?

Yes, you can. But with a quit claim, the absence of the usual promises that the chain of title is clear means that the new owner takes the interest subject to whatever liens or encumbrances existed before the quit claim deed was granted.

And that is why lawyers often refer to quit claim deeds as "pig-in-a-poke" deeds. You simply don't know what your are getting, and the seller doesn't have to stand behind the transaction.

Then how will I know when it is proper to use a Quit Claim deed?

Meet with an experienced real estate lawyer. Share all the facts surrounding the transaction. Let the lawyer review the entire chain of title. And then listen to your lawyer's advice.

Good luck!

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