Thomas McCutcheon

Q: I have a quitclaim deed and someone said I should have a warranty deed.  What is the difference? 

Peggy, Tuscumbia, AL  

A: The difference truly depends on what you intend to do with the property.  If the true owner of the property gave you a quitclaim deed to the property and you have recorded that deed, you hold good legal title to the property.  No one would have a superior interest.  

On the other hand, anyone can give you a quitclaim deed to any property.  A quitclaim deed only transfers whatever interest someone may have in a particular piece of property.  That interest could be 0% or 100%.  Often a quitclaim deed conveys a partial interest in property.  A quitclaim deed is only as valid as the interest in the property owned by the person who deeded the property to you. 

A warranty deed on the other hand actually offers a warranty that they own the property.  It is a stronger instrument that should not be given if there is any question about the property that is described in the deed.  

When lawyers and bankers and people who regularly buy and sell land consider deeds, what we think about is how perfect is the chain of title.  That is in many respects is required, and should be by a potential buyer to the property.  More importantly, it is truly determined by a commercial lending institution loaning money with the property used as security.  This concept is called marketability.  

If I had any question about the ownership of a particular piece of property, I would ask for and purchase what is known as an abstract of title.  An abstract traces every owner of that particular piece of property back to the United States of America, at least every one I have ever seen.  There may be some exceptions to that in other areas of our country.  An abstract of title will settle your curiosity about the true ownership of the property and a policy of title insurance will offer a guarantee of title.  Both are offered through title companies that are set up to sell these.  An abstract of title is usually not very expensive although I have not priced one in some time. 

A third type of deed I think people should know about is a deed reserving a life estate.  This gives the person who owns the life estate the right to live on the property as long as they are alive but gives the future owner of the property an interest in the property as well.  This effectively destroys the value of the property and protects the property from governmental interests arising from long term care if the deed is executed more than five (5) years before long term care begins.  

Buckle up and drive safely.

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