Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Warranty v. Quitclaim Deeds

A deed is a written document which transfers real estate ownership from one entity to another. A deed often has one of two labels on the top, Warranty Deed or Quitclaim Deed. What is the difference? Did it make a difference to my ancestors?

In the law, home owners have a bundle of rights.  A warranty deed assures the grantees that the grantors are conveying all the possible rights to the property. Grantors are guaranteeing that they have good, clear title and agreeing to defend the grantee from all title claims.  A Quitclaim Deed conveys to the grantee only the rights the grantors have which may or may not be the complete bundle. So if the seller’s title isn’t clear, the buyer’s title isn’t clear.
A Warranty Deed is also referred to as a ‘full covenant and warranty deed’ or a ‘general warranty deed.’ It is used extensively in the U.S. because some considered it the best deed a grantee can receive.  In my home region, western Massachusetts, almost all property sales are via a warranty deed, while in the City of Boston, a quitclaim deed is most prevalent. E. Wade Hone, a Utah resident, in his book for genealogists, Land and Property Research in the United States, states that quitclaim deeds are the most common type.

This is an example of a warranty deed from 1913 in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. The warranty clause is in the preprinted area below the legal description.
Warranty and Covenant clause is last paragraph.

For all practical purposes in the modern day, both types of deeds adequately convey property. Titles are searched for the past 50 or 60 years, and title insurance is purchased.  Modern home buyers are very well protected from title issues.
There are historic reasons for the two major types of deeds. However, it would be rare to find title issues in our ancestors’ land transactions.

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