Changing the names on a property deed means you're changing property ownership. The change is made when the owners named on a current deed prepare and sign a new deed with the names of the new owners, and deliver the deed to the new owners. Because there are legal consequences to changing property ownership, you should consult with an attorney or real estate title professional before changing the names on a deed.
Certain Deeds Give New Owners Protection
Several types of deeds are used to change property ownership and are commonly referred to as general warranty deed, special warranty deed, grant deed, deed without warranty and quitclaim deed. The primary difference among these deeds is the level of protection given to the new property owners by the old owners from title defects. Examples of title defects include unpaid taxes, judgment liens and ownership claims by other people. General warranty deeds give the greatest protection because the old owners agree to compensate the new owners for title defects. Special warranty deeds and grant deeds give limited protection for defects specifically caused by the old owners. Deeds without warranty and quitclaim deeds give no protection at all.
Situations Determine Type of Deed Used
The reason for changing property ownership generally determines which type of deed you should use. In a typical real estate sale involving unrelated sellers and buyers, a general warranty deed often is used. However, real estate practices in a state may also be a factor. Special warranty deeds and grant deeds are useful when changing ownership for gift-giving purposes or due to marriage. In situations where there is a need to resolve a defect in title or settle a dispute, such as a divorce, a quitclaim deed is used.
Preparing a Deed for Name Changes
Pre-printed forms for all types of deeds are generally available from several sources such as the county clerk's office and title companies, with many of these sources making the forms available online. The minimum information needed to complete such a form is usually: the names of the owners on the current deed, or the "grantors"; the names of the new owners, the "grantees"; the property's legal description; county name where the property is located; and a statement of the "consideration" -- that is, the actual amount paid or a nominal gift amount. When there is more than one new owner, it's important to state how the title will be held. Property titles often are held as joint tenancy, tenants-in-common and community property. Choosing the proper type of deed and how title is to be held often requires professional advice.
Signed, Delivered and Recorded
To be effective, a deed detailing changing names must be properly signed and delivered. Signing usually must be done before a notary public by everyone currently on the deed who wants the name change. The notarized deed is then delivered to the new people named on the deed. This is all that's necessary to make the name changes effective. However, good real estate practice requires filing the notarized deed with the local government office that records real estate transactions. These government offices typically have their own recording requirements beyond just presenting the notarized deed.