Quitclaim Deed

What is a quitclaim deed?

Updated April 20, 2022

There are instances when the owner or owners of a given property or real estate parcel seek to dispose of that ownership without a traditional sale. Alternatively, friends or family members may wish to transfer ownership of a property to each other. In such cases, the parties involved and their real estate representatives can employ a quitclaim deed. A long-standing legal concept most often practiced in the United States, Canada and Mexico (with similar documents and procedures ranging from state to state across the U.S.), the quitclaim deed in the real estate realm is a complete renunciation of any legal claim against a right to land, a home or other property.

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The party signing and issuing the quitclaim deed renounces and releases any possible claim of partial or full ownership for a given property. The form usually enters the real estate process when the time comes to transfer the home or land in question to a new buyer or new owner via a method other than traditional purchase.

For those looking for a less traditional home sale process, the quitclaim deed is a complete renunciation of any legal claim against a right to land, a home or other property. Credit: Scott Graham/Unsplash

In rarer cases, quitclaim deeds are used to correct mistakes on a title or other documentation of ownership. On such occasions, when the original document cannot be simply corrected due to legal restrictions, a quitclaim deed can cancel or clear the former title document officially. The new replacement title would then correct the error and take the place of the now dismissed title.

In such cases, it’s essential for all concerned parties to employ expert counsel to make certain only the necessary alterations are made on the new title following the quitclaim deed. Though such deeds are most often used in cases where all parties are well known to one another, all precautions should be followed especially when documentation of ownership is involved.

A quitclaim deed can also be used to transfer property outside of a purchase agreement. For example, if an individual or ownership organization wants to donate a property, the donating entity can forgo ownership via a quitclaim deed before a new title registers ownership for the recipient. 

Since a quitclaim deed does have the power of changing ownership, it’s important for those employing the document to be aware of the following precautions and issues:

  • Only employ or accept a quitclaim deed when dealing with familiar individuals or institutions. Such deeds contain no reliable assurances about the legitimacy of the grantor's title or authority. It’s important to know the legitimacy of both parties’claims.
  • A quitclaim deed is only as good as the original title or document it alters.
  • If a quitclaim deed changes the ownership of an active mortgage, it cannot affect the terms, period or amount of the mortgage itself. Again, the deed is best used in transactions not involving funds because it cannot supersede purchase terms.
  • If a buyer still has an active mortgage requiring payment, that purchaser remains responsible for the mortgage amount even after executing a quitclaim deed as the latter document cannot alter the mortgage. The party receiving the ownership following execution of the quitclaim deed has no obligation to make mortgage payments. A separate legal agreement and possible exchange of finances would be required to alter mortgage terms to match a quitclaim deed.
  • A quitclaim deed is best used when a non-financial transition is involved. The document is not elaborate enough in function or purpose to serve in full real estate sales.
  • A quitclaim deed only refers to a claim or ownership. It serves no other purpose, makes no other claims and provides no other assurances.

Even in cases in which all parties are familiar with each other and everyone understands the need and function of the deed, it’s advisable to involve legal and real estate professionals in the quitclaim arrangement.