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Real Estate Deed

A legal instrument (document), almost always in writing, that passes an interest in real estate from one person to another person. In short, when real estate is sold or given to someone, it is done with a deed. The new owner of the real estate receives their rights to the property and any title warranties given by the previous owner from the deed.

The deed is the most formal type of private instrument and requires not only an executing party (grantor/grantee, transferor/transferee) but also witnesses as signatories, and acknowledgments from a notary public. A deed has therefore a greater presumption of validity and is less rebuttable than other types of real estate documents.

At common law, to be valid and enforceable, real estate deeds must fulfill several requirements:

  • It must state on its face it is a deed, using words like "This Deed..." or "executed as a deed."
  • It must indicate that the instrument itself conveys an interest in real property to someone.
  • A deed must adequately describe the real property for which the interest is being transferred.
  • The grantor must have the legal capacity to grant the interest, and the grantee must have the legal capacity to receive it.
  • A deed must be executed by the grantor(s) in presence of the prescribed number of witnesses set forth by the local jurisdiction.
  • It must be delivered to (delivery) and accepted by the grantee (acceptance.)

Conditions attached to the acceptance of a deed are known as covenants.

Common types of real estate deed:

Who needs a real estate deed?

Anyone who claims ownership of or wishes to transfer ownership in real property in the US must formalize the details in writing. In almost all cases, real estate deeds are the most efficient way to present the information.

Who is involved in a real estate deed?

A real estate deed, at its core, involves a grantor and a grantee. Real estate deeds are used to facilitate real estate transactions, which are conducted by individuals, as well as corporations, LLCs, and other entities. Grantors and grantees (or someone acting on behalf of the grantor and grantee) are responsible for the execution of the deed, while the county recorder in the county where the property is located is responsible for the recordation of the deed.

Who signs a real estate deed?

The signatures needed in a real estate deed can vary by state, type of deed, and circumstances. In all fifty states, a deed must be signed and acknowledged by the grantor. Additional signatures may also be required, such as a grantee's signature, witnesses, a notary public, and the document preparer.

Who can create a real estate deed?

Anyone can create a real estate deed. In most cases, a deed is created by a party involved in the transaction, or someone acting on behalf of one of the parties, such as a title agency or an attorney. County and state specific forms can be purchased from and office supply stores. They can also be purchased from attorneys or title agencies.

What is a real estate deed used for?

A real estate deed is a legal document used to convey real property or an interest in real property from a grantor to a grantee. A real estate deed is an important document in that it affects ownership rights and interest.

What are the different types of real estate deeds?

A real estate deed can be in the form of a general warranty deed, a special warranty deed, a quitclaim deed, or a bargain and sale deed. There are also many special purpose deeds. The categories can be further broken down to include rights of survivorship, joint tenancy, and tenancy in common.

What are the elements of a real estate deed?

Each state has a unique set of requirements, but the core elements of a real estate deed are fairly uniform: it must be in writing; the grantor must have legal capacity to convey the interest and the grantee must be in a legal capacity to receive the granted property or interest; the grantor and grantee must be identified in the deed; words of conveyance must be present; the deed must be signed by the grantor or grantors; and the deed must be legally delivered to and accepted by the grantee.

What do you do with a real estate deed once it is completed?

After a real estate deed has been completed according to statutory and local guidelines, it should be recorded in the proper county.

Where can I get a real estate deed?

There are many sources for real estate deeds:

  • Attorneys
  • State statutes
  • Internet
  • Office supply stores

Each of the sources listed above come with positive and negative aspects. For example, if an attorney prepares a real estate deed, it will probably cost more than the other options. The attorney, however, is likely to draft a document that meets the local legal requirements, and if a problem arises, he or she should be equipped to resolve it.

Many states provide a basic form for real estate deeds in their statutes. Others identify the most essential information, but no other details. While it seems simple on the surface, this method is full of hidden problems. Often, the requirements are spread throughout the state's laws; one local recorder's office mentioned that the full instructions for creating real estate deeds included components of over 100 sections of the state's code! Additionally, failing to provide all the necessary items may lead to a rejected recording request, extra fees for a nonstandard document, or any number of other problems, maybe even an outright loss of the property.

Finally, the Internet provides an overwhelming amount of information about real estate deeds. Some websites offer legal forms at no cost and others charge a fee. In most cases, the free deeds come with no guarantee that they are formatted correctly for each state and county, and if an issue comes up, the individual must resolve it alone or seek help from an attorney. Other online sources may charge fees, but they generally include some kind of warranty, assuring the purchaser that the real estate deed is suitable for use in their specific location.

Where should a real estate deed be recorded?

A real estate deed should be recorded in the office of the county recorder in the county where the property is located. The office of the county recorder may also be called the register of deeds, clerk of courts, office of the judge of probate, or recorder of deeds. If property is located in more than one county, some states will require that the deed be recorded in all counties; others require that the deed be recorded in the county where the majority of the property is located.

Why do I need a real estate deed?

Real estate deeds serve many purposes. They identify the owner of a parcel of real property. They also include information that defines the boundaries and location of a unique piece of land. Deeds, when properly recorded, help to preserve the chain of title (ownership history). This is important because in order to sell real estate, the current owner must be able to demonstrate that he owns the land with a clear title - otherwise, the buyer might have to defend herself against a claim from another person who believes they still have rights to the property.

Why are real estate deeds used?

Real estate deeds are used to facilitate residential and commercial transactions involving real estate. In court proceedings, real estate deeds can be used when property is seized by court officials because of unpaid taxes. One type of deed, a deed of trust, is used as an alternative to a traditional mortgage.

Why are real estate deeds recorded?

Recording a deed in the county where the property is located places the document in the public records, providing constructive notice to subsequent purchasers, mortgagers, creditors, and the general public about a conveyance related to a specific parcel of real property. It also protects the interests of the new owner of record, because in most cases where there is a dispute involving multiple parties claiming ownership of the same parcel, the first recorded deed dictates who keeps the land.

In each state, a recording act dictates the legal procedure by which an individual claiming an interest in real property establishes that claim. The recording acts vary from state to state, but all include a strong incentive for the buyer to record the deed: preserving the chain of title (ownership history). This is important because it informs future bona fide purchasers (buyers for value, usually money) that the property's title is clear, which reduces the likelihood of future claims.

In addition to keeping an accurate record of owners, recording a deed also serves invaluable historical purposes as property records are often used in genealogical research.

When do I need a real estate deed?

A real estate deed is an essential part of every transaction involving ownership of real property.

When does a real estate deed become effective?

A real estate deed will become effective between the parties involved when it is delivered from the grantor to the grantee. If a deed is in writing, notarized, given to the grantee, and then recorded in the proper county, it will be presumed that the delivery was made with intent to transfer. At a real estate closing, the seller signs over the deed to the buyer.

When were real estate deeds first used in America?

Before deeds were in common use, land owners would transfer land through livery of siezin, which was basically an oral exchange. In the United States, land ownership began with land grants, which were the basis for the 13 colonies. After the American Revolutionary War, the land in the 13 colonies was owned by the new federal government. At this time, the first land patents were issued.

How do I use a real estate deed?

Use a real estate deed to convey property from the owner (grantor) to the purchaser (grantee). To do this, obtain a deed form that is suitable for the state and county where the land is located. Complete the form, then submit it to the local government office responsible for maintaining land records, usually the recorder or clerk.

How is a real estate deed made?

A real estate deed is made according to its intended purpose. In order to be recorded and to be valid, it needs to be formatted in accordance with the current county and state guidelines. In the form of a real estate deed, there must be an indication that the document is conveying real property or an interest in real property to someone. If there are covenants or warranties attached to the acceptance of a deed, these need to be included.

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