Deed Basics

February 28th, 2019 - Catherine A. Moore

All real property conveyances in Washington must be done by written deed. RCW 64.04.010. Deeds often appear simple but are actually densely packed with important information. When conveying real property, we always recommend working with a title company or attorney because even the slightest error can have significant consequences.

What are the different kinds of deeds?

There are probably dozens of kinds of deeds, but the three that come up most often in Washington are:

  • Warranty Deed. This type of deed is authorized and described by RCW 64.04.030. By executing a warranty deed, the grantor warrants that he or she is the outright owner of the property, has the right to convey it, that there are no encumbrances on title, that no one will have a better claim to the property than the grantee, and that the grantor will defend the grantee’s good title to the property. This is the most common type of deed for individuals purchasing real property.
  • Bargain and Sale Deed. This type of deed is authorized and described by RCW 64.04.040. The grantor makes some of the same warrants as in the warranty deed, but only to the extent that the issues described arose during his or her possession of the property. This deed is commonly used when the estate of a deceased person transfers property.
  • Quitclaim Deed. This type of deed is authorized by RCW 64.04.030. It makes no warranties as to conditions of title, not even that the grantor owns the property. The grantee takes the property “as is.” Quitclaim deeds have a variety of uses and are common when gifting property, transferring property between identical or closely related entities, or clearing clouds on title.

What must a deed contain?

RCW 64.04.030, .040, and .050 provide basic forms for statutory warranty deeds, bargain and sale deeds, and quitclaim deeds respectively. Following is a list of information every deed should contain so that you can familiarize yourself with the information your title company or attorney might need:

  • The deed must identify the person or entity who is transferring the property.
  • Generally speaking, the deed must identify the person or entity to whom the property is being transferred.
  • Granting language. There must be some language indicating that the grantor is transferring the property to the grantee. The granting language will vary based on the type of deed. A warranty deed will say “convey and warrant;” a bargain and sale deed will say “bargain, sell and convey,” and a quitclaim deed will say “convey and quitclaim.” An attorney or title company should draft the conveyance language.
  • There usually must be a statement as to what the grantor is getting in exchange for the property, but consideration may not be required if the property conveyance is a gift. Again, an attorney or title company can determine whether a statement of consideration is required and can draft it if needed.
  • Legal description. The legal description is a written description which would permit a surveyor to identify the property; tax parcel number or address are insufficient. The deed must include the legal description and should include exceptions or burdens on the land, such as easements, and required disclosures, such as the right-to-farm disclosure.
  • Notarized signature of grantor. All grantors must sign the deed, and all grantors’ signatures must be notarized.

 When is a deed effective?

A deed is effective upon delivery to and acceptance by the grantee. “Delivery” here means that the grantor intends to pass title to the grantee, so the grantor or grantee’s possession of the deed does not unequivocally demonstrate delivery or failure to deliver. Practically, delivery and acceptance of deeds are almost never a problem, especially if the grantor or grantee work with a title company or attorney.

However, the deed does not protect the grantee’s interest in the property against third parties until it is recorded with the county auditor. If the grantor also gives a deed to a subsequent purchaser for consideration, the original unrecorded deed is void. So, while a grantee may have an effective deed and may own the property without recording the deed, that grantee’s ownership is vulnerable to other claims of ownership until the deed is recorded.

If you have more questions, an experienced real estate attorney can assist you.

Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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