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Should I use a Quitclaim Deed? by R. Scott Alagood

A Quitclaim Deed in Texas is somewhat of an oxymoron. Believe it or not, a Quitclaim Deed is really not a Deed. To understand the reasons why, you must know a little background about the type of deeds typically used in Texas to transfer real property.

There are three basic types of Deeds in Texas which are used to convey real property*: (1) General Warranty Deed, (2) Special Warranty Deed, and (3) Deed Without Warranty. Each of these Deeds primarily accomplishes the same thing. That is, they actually convey the interests owned by the Grantor in the real property being conveyed. The granting clause contained in each of these deeds affirmatively grants “all right, title, and interest” that the Grantor holds in the particular real property being conveyed. The typical words of grant used in a Deed to show intent to convey are “grant, sold, and conveyed”. However, other words, such as “transfer” or “alienate” may suffice. Words such as “release”, “wish”, or “dedicate” have either caused confusion as to the Grantor’s intent or have been held ineffective as words of conveyance. The use of the proper words of grant will imply that certain warranties exist by law.

There are differences between the three basic types of Deeds. Each Deed “warrants” the grant in differing manners. A warranty is effectively a contractual promise by the Grantor that the interest being conveyed in the Deed is the full and complete interest described. A General Warranty Deed “warrants” the conveyed interest against any prior conveyance of an interest, not just a conveyance by the Grantor. A Special Warranty Deed limits the warranty against any conveyance of an interest, but only if it occurs “by, through, or under” the Grantor. That is, the Grantor is only warranting against matters that he or she may have conveyed to others,but not matters that someone else may have conveyed to others. A Deed Without Warranty is just what it says it is. There is no warranty, and thus no contractual promise by the Grantor that he or she will stand behind the promised conveyance. However, since the Deed Without Warranty uses the “words of grant”, it is a Deed regardless of its lack of warranty and transfers the interest described therein.

To the contrary, a Quitclaim Deed under Texas law does NOT constitute a conveyance of real property. A quitclaim conveys only the Grantor’s rights in the described property, if any. A Quitclaim on its face conveys doubts about the Grantor’s interest in the property and a Buyer or Grantee is automatically put on notice about these doubts. As such, a Quitclaim is not a Deed and cannot be used to establish title to a particular parcel of real estate, whether by the Grantee of the Quitclaim or anyone else claiming under him.

Also, a Quitclaim Deed does not contain any warranty of title. As such, the Buyer or Grantee receives nothing more than a chance at title. There are several disadvantages through the use of the Quitclaim that are not present when using a true Deed:

  1. No express warranty of title nor implied warranties of title;
  2. A person claiming under a Quitclaim cannot rely on the 5 year statute of limitations to establish title;
  3. A Buyer or Grantee claiming under a Quitclaim cannot avail themselves of the benefits of the recording statutes that protects innocent purchasers against prior unrecorded Deeds; and
  4. The after-acquired title doctrine cannot be invoked by a Quitclaim Grantee to claim an interest in property obtained by the Quitclaim Grantor after the date of the Quitclaim.

Effectively, a Quitclaim Deed only acts as an “estoppel” or defense against the Quitclaim Grantor who is claiming
an interest in the real property quitclaimed to the Quitclaim Grantee. Therefore, the use of a Quitclaim Deed should typically be limited to situations where a Buyer or Grantee can otherwise stand on his or her own title, but needs to make sure that another potential claimant will not have valid claim to defeat such Grantee’s claim in the same real property. In those instances, a Quitclaim may be used essentially as an estoppel document, rather than a tool to obtain title to or an interest in real estate.

If you are ever presented with a situation in which you are being advised to use a Quitclaim or believe a Quitclaim is adequate, you should seek legal advice from an attorney specialized in real estate transactions to make sure you are fully aware of the consequences of such actions, as well as obtaining other possible options, such as using a Deed Without Warranty. Otherwise, you may find yourself or your heirs or assigns litigating an
unintended title dispute at some point in the future.

*There are other types of deeds which deal with mineral estates in Texas real property such as a mineral deed or a royalty deed. It should be noted that unless otherwise reserved to the Grantor or through a prior transfer, the deed of a fee interest in real estate in Texas will include the mineral estate along with the surface estate. However, the discussion of transferring an interest in only the mineral estate is beyond the scope of this discussion.