Land ownership is evidenced by the signing and recording of a deed, which is a document that functions much like a car title: it says, this property is owned by this person or entity. Deeds are recorded in the county where the property is located, so that anyone looking to buy the property will know if the seller is the actual owner. Deeds can show ownership by just one person or by more than one person. If you own property with someone else and you agree that he doesn't want to own it anymore, you can use another deed to extinguish his ownership.
If you own property with another person, and that person sells or gives you his share, you can remove their name from the deed by getting signatures on a quitclaim or a warranty deed. You'll have to prepare and sign the deed according to your state laws, then file it with the proper state agency.
The Fastest Way: A Quitclaim Deed
The quickest way to remove a name from a deed is with a quitclaim deed. This is a legal document that transfers to another person all of the interest one person has in a specific property. The deed is then filed in your local state or county office that records real estate transactions.
In most states, the person signing a quitclaim deed, the grantor, makes no promises to the other person, the grantee, about the type of interest he has in the real estate. He may have nothing or he may have 100 percent of the title free and clear. When you receive a quitclaim deed from someone, it's sort of a surprise bag – you're not sure of what's in it, but it belongs to you. Because of this, quitclaim deeds carry certain risks. For example, you may receive a quitclaim deed for a property that is encumbered by tax liens, mortgages and judgment liens, and those liens will go with the property, even if you're not the one who owes the money. But quitclaim deeds can work well for transfers between close friends or family members.
The primary benefit of a quitclaim deed is its simplicity. You can easily find a quitclaim deed form online or obtain one from a realtor. You'll have to fill in the description of the property, identify the grantor and the grantee, and obtain signatures. The exact procedures and forms vary among states. Most require that you sign in front of a notary, and many also require witnesses.
The Thorough Transfer: A Warranty Deed
If you don't want to assume the risks inherent in a quitclaim deed, you can remove someone from a deed with a warranty deed. A warranty deed specifies and transfers the grantor's interest in the property. In a warranty deed, the grantor warrants or guarantees that she is the legal owner of the specified share of the property and pledges that no liens, encumbrances or mortgages are held against it.
As with a quitclaim deed, your state and local laws specify the exact contents of the warranty deed, the form of the deed, and the procedures for signing and recording it. Most states require that warranty deed signatures be notarized, and many require that they also be witnessed. After all parties properly sign the deed, record it at the office that handles public real estate records in the county where the property is located.
A warranty deed offers you more protection than a quitclaim deed. Since a warranty deed guarantees title, the grantor can be liable for damages if the title he transfers is encumbered or defective. People signing warranty deeds often purchase title insurance to protect them in case there is an issue with an invalid title. If the property has a mortgage, you'll need to pay off the loan or obtain the bank's permission to transfer the property.