Quitclaim Forgery Is Snatching Florida Homes From Seniors and Dead People

Some people will steal their own mothers’ homes.

In a stunning case of deed fraud, a woman named Wanda donned a wig and pretended to be her own elderly mother, then tried to steal her home in Hillsborough County, Florida. A video recording shows Wanda using the Notarize computer-based notary service, signing a quitclaim deed. She signed her mother’s name to take the deed for herself.

In May 2023, the Tampa police apprehended Wanda on counts of forgery and elder exploitation.

A weird and unusual case, surely? Alas, there are quite a few deed scoundrels alive and well in Florida. The state is among the top three for identity theft, according to the 2022 figures from the Federal Trade Commission.

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Using a Quitclaim Deed: What Are the Drawbacks?

A quitclaim deed is a simple form that transfers a piece of real estate from one person to another. Any homeowner can fill out a quitclaim deed with their name and the name of the recipient, and the property’s existing legal description, sign it in front of a notary and record the document. That effectively and quickly passes a property on. No wonder these forms mistakenly get called “quick claim” deeds.

Yet quitclaims are not a good pick for most property conveyances. Read on to learn more.

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Divorce, Property Division, and the Quitclaim Deed

Legal documents- using a quitclaim deed during a divorce

Parting of the Ways

Co-ownership of a house can unwind in several ways. One way is through divorce proceedings. You might be wondering how this works, and what kind of decisions have to be made.

You might have questions about passing the home to your ex using a quitclaim deed. Here are some of the key issues that arise, and what steps need to be taken in each case.

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Can I Quitclaim My House Into a Living Trust?

Using the quitclaim deed to keep a house out of probate

Using the Quitclaim to Keep a House Out of Probate

We’re glad you asked. You might have heard that a living trust can…

  • Have your property bypass the costly, time-consuming probate court process when you die.
  • Be modified if you change your mind, and even let you put the property back in your own name while you are alive.
  • Name a successor trustee with the power to pass your property to whomever you designate as the new owner.

All of the above are reasons many people use this method of passing their property along after they die. And a home is a typical piece of property that people put into a living trust.  

Importantly, a living trust is a revocable trust — it’s a trust you control during your life, and can change. Curious as to how it works? Here, we outline the basics of using a living trust to pass a lifetime home along to its future owner(s).

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Texans Welcome New Guidance for Quitclaim Deeds

Adverse Possession Also Clarified

Congrats to Texas, where the government just gave a boost to the quitclaim deed! People who receive their homes through recorded quitclaim deeds will now be on firmer ground in the Lone Star State. Here’s what you need to know.

Strengthening the Chain of Title for Texas Property

Image of the American Flag and the Texas Flag.

In May, a bill was signed into law to amend Chapter 13 of the Texas Property Code, to take effect on Sep. 1, 2021. From now on, using a quitclaim deed to transfer title from one owner to the next will be easier. Title companies will be able to consider buyers who accepted and recorded quitclaims as bona fide purchasers after four years. Texas formally set a four-year statute of limitations for competing claims.

Once a quitclaim deed is recorded in the property’s county, a later purchaser or lender has good-faith protection, as long as the party has no knowledge of other unrecorded claims on the property. What does this mean for buyers of real estate with a quitclaim in the chain of title? The buyer can legally claim good faith purchaser status.

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Will Versus Quitclaim: When There’s a Conflict, Who Owns the House?

Image of a group of people working on documents at a table in a coffee shop type setting.

Usually, the quitclaim deed overrides the instructions in a will. But the devil is in the details.

At age 60, Letitia bought her Sacramento home, as a sole owner. Twenty years later, aged 80, Letitia went into a care home. Letitia subsequently signed a quitclaim deed and gave the home to Jackson, the only one of her three children who was not already a homeowner. Thanks to the modern convenience of remote online notarization, this was simple for Letitia to do.

  Some homeowners use quitclaim deeds when the parties know the home’s history and do not expect a title search. See more at: Transferring a Deed Without a Lawyer? Here’s What You Should Know.

At age 84, Letitia passed away, survived by the three children: Jae, Jasper, and Jackson.

Letitia left a will that appears to give 50% of the home’s value to Jackson, with the other half divided equally between the other two siblings. But Jackson is unwilling to give up any interest the home.

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Using a Quitclaim Deed: Top 5 Reasons

Image of the outside of a house in a wooded setting, Captioned: Top 5 Reasons for Using a Quitclaim Deed.

Are you considering using a quitclaim deed? It’s a fast, simple, and reasonable way to transfer home ownership. It’s a good choice in certain situations. What are those certain situations?

In contrast to warranty deeds, which are most often used in regular home sales, a quitclaim would more likely be used:

  1. Among family members. In this case, when the parties know the history of the property and no title insurance policy is issued, quitclaiming can be done either with or without expert help. 
  • In a divorce. A decree stating that one ex-spouse will keep the home doesn’t actually transfer a home. Yet transferring ownership to an ex is easily done by quitclaim.
  • To clear up confusion about ownership, including name changes. Quitclaiming to clarify ownership can be achieved without expert help, but it’s often requested by a title insurer.
  • In a sale of a bank-owned house. If it will be the buyer’s responsibility to make the title good, a quitclaim can be used in an REO auction.  
  • To place a home into an LLC. Some investor owners decide to transfer properties into an LLC. A quitclaim deed is one way to do this.

Quitclaiming is a simple, because it can transfer ownership of real estate without the need to examine current ownership or the chain of title. Historically, the quitclaim has long been the go-to method of transferring property while avoiding bureaucracy.

In that spirit, without further ado, here’s more on five top reasons homeowners decide to use quitclaim deeds.

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Is a Quitclaim Deed Subject to Tax?

Black and white image of a calculator, a paperclip, and a pen sitting on a paper ledger used for accounting. Captioned: Is a Quitclaim Deed Subject to Tax?

Quitclaims are sometimes used to transfer property interests from one family member to another, or between divorcing spouses. Parents might wonder if they should use quitclaims to pass property to children to avoid the probate process. It’s easy enough to do. The homeowner signs the document with a notary, takes it to the county recorder of deeds, and has it recorded. Simple. No wonder adding someone to a deed or relinquishing rights through a quitclaim is often (mistakenly) called a “quick claim” deed. But what does the Internal Revenue Service think?

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