Quitclaim Deeds and Joint Tenancy With the Rights to Survivor

If you're selling or transferring property, you have to sign a legal document called a deed to transfer the legal ownership to the new owner. Quitclaim is one type of deed that you can use in certain situations. It doesn't give the new owner much legal protection, so most people use it for intra-family transfers where no money is changing hands. Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is a form of ownership of property where two people own land together. You can use a quitclaim to transfer property to joint owners.

Quitclaim Deeds and Joint Tenancy With the Rights to Survivor
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Understanding Quitclaim Deeds

When you buy a new house, you typically will sign a warranty deed. This deed contains various legal protections so the new owner can be sure that the owner (and any owners before him) did not transfer the property to another party. But a quitclaim deed has none of these promises. Quitclaim deeds promise only that the transferring party is handing over his interest in the property; they make no guarantee about how valid that interest might be. Since there are no ownership guarantees, most people use quitclaims to move property around between family members when they are confident about ownership, or for moving property between spouses in a divorce.

Quitclaim Deed Example

John buys a home from Arthur, and Arthur gives him a quitclaim deed. After two months of ownership, John opens his mail and finds a notice of eviction from Bob. Bob claims that, eight years ago, Michael (the owner before Arthur) actually sold him the home. When John checks, Bob does have a deed to the home recorded with the county. In this situation, had Arthur transferred to John with, for instance, a warranty deed, John could now sue Arthur for damages or (in some states) demand that Arthur work to get him actual, good title to the property. But since John has only a quitclaim deed, the only way he can sue Arthur is if Arthur actually knew of the previous transfer to Bob and committed fraud.

Understanding Joint Tenancy

When two people own property in joint tenancy, they each have an equal right to the whole property. They can do anything with it, but cannot use the property in such a way that another joint tenant who wants to use the property cannot. Joint tenancy is an "undivided" interest; this means the two owners don't own specific parts of the property, but share it as a whole. If the owners want to actually divide the property among themselves, they must go through a judicial process called partition.

Right of Survivorship

Joint tenancy comes with a "right of survivorship." This means that, when one of the joint tenants dies, his ownership interest automatically gets divided between the surviving owners. He may not leave his interest to descendants or other parties. For instance, if A, B and C own property as joint tenants, and C dies, A and B now own the whole property as joint tenants.

Deeds and Ownership

You may use a quitclaim deed to transfer ownership to joint tenants. However, as shown in the example above, these joint tenants will each face the same lack of legal protection as John in a case where the transferring party did not have perfect title to the property. Joint tenants wishing to transfer the joint tenancy property together (as one) may also use a quitclaim deed to do so.

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