When you want to relinquish ownership of a property to a family member or a spouse during a divorce, you must follow the proper procedure. Fortunately, signing over title is a simple matter of creating and recording a new deed, naming the new owner and explaining how he will hold title.
Relinquishing ownership of a house by signing the title over to someone else isn’t a difficult challenge. People do it for a number of reasons -- they might sell the property or transfer it to an adult child or other family member for estate-planning purposes. It’s a simple matter of creating a new deed, but the type of deed depends on the nature of the transfer.
Deed vs. Title
A house’s deed and title are similar but not quite the same thing. The deed is the document that establishes ownership. Title is how you hold that ownership, and the deed explains how you’ve chosen to do so. You might hold title as a single individual, as a married couple or with someone else as tenants in common or as joint tenants. A joint tenancy carries rights of survivorship -- if you die, your share of the property passes automatically to your co-owner. If you hold title with someone else as tenants in common, either of you can leave your share to someone else in your estate plan.
Types of Deeds
Regardless of how you hold title to the house in your existing deed, a new deed is required if you want to transfer the property to someone else. If you’re transferring it to a relative, a quitclaim deed should suffice. This type of deed makes no promises that you actually own the property you’re giving away or that there are no liens against it – it may not have clear title.
A quitclaim deed simply states that if you do own the house, you’re giving your interest in it to someone else. Typically, the transfer occurs without money changing hands. Someone who’s buying your property won’t be satisfied with this, so you’ll most likely need a warranty deed if you’re selling the house. This type of deed guarantees that you own the property and that it’s free and clear of liens so you can transfer it to someone else unencumbered.
Completing the Deed
Many of the steps involved in a creating a quitclaim deed or a warranty deed are the same. You might want to ask an attorney or legal aid to review your warranty deed when you’ve completed it, however, because an error could have more serious ramifications than if you make a mistake when giving the property to a family member.
You can download either form from the Internet or buy one from an office supply store. Fill in your name as the grantor – the person selling or giving the property. The buyer or recipient of the house is the grantee. Write in the legal description of the property in the space provided for this. Your original deed should include the description, so you can simply copy it from one form to the other. Otherwise, you can usually get it from your city or municipality. Sign and date the deed. Most states require that you also have it notarized, and some might additionally require witnesses. Check with legal aid for the rules in your state.
Making It Official
You haven’t actually transferred title to your house until you’ve recorded the new deed with the proper authority. Even if your state or county doesn’t legally require this, it’s usually a good idea to take the additional step. Submit the deed to your county’s land records office. Depending on where you live, this office might go by a different name. It might be the county recorder, the registrar of titles or the register of deeds.
Your county’s website should tell you where to take the completed deed, or at least it will offer a phone number so you can call and find out. The office will officially record it and make it a matter of public record, usually returning a stamped and filed copy by mail a short time later.