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Understanding Deeds

Updated on January 1, 2010
Photo by fotocromo.com
Photo by fotocromo.com

A deed, in law, is a written document by which one person transfers real estate to another. The person who gives or sells the property is the grantor, and the one who receives it is the grantee. A deed must contain the names of both persons, a description of the property, and a declaration of intention to transfer the property at the present time.

Originally, a deed had to be signed and sealed by the grantor to be valid, but the seal is usually no longer required. In most jurisdictions a deed must be acknowledged by the grantor before a notary public or other official to show that it was freely signed. It must then be delivered to the grantee and accepted by him or be left with a third person or court for delivery, a procedure called placing a deed in escrow. An acknowledged deed may be recorded by the local register or other official. If it is not recorded, it is still valid, unless the property is later transferred to another person, in which case the unrecorded deed becomes invalid against that other person.

A quitclaim deed transfers the grantor's interest in the property but does not say what other legal claims, such as a mortgage, may be on the property. A warranty deed promises the grantee that no claims except those mentioned in the deed can interfere with his full use of the property.

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