The division of property is a major element of a Massachusetts divorce case. Real estate oftentimes is the most significant piece of property to be dealt with during divorce proceedings. If real estate owned by the parties during the marriage is assigned to one of the spouses as part of a divorce settlement or decree, a quitclaim deed typically is the instrument used to transfer that property interest.
In Massachusetts, a quitclaim deed works to disclaim any interests a person might have in real estate. In other words, the person who signs a quitclaim deed in favor of another individual is conveying whatever interest she may or may not have in the property. In other words, if a Massachusetts divorce decree assigns the marital home to the wife, the husband signs a quitclaim deed disclaiming any interest in the property and conveying it to his spouse.
Unlike a warranty deed, a quitclaim deed under Massachusetts law does not guarantee that title to the real estate is free and clear of any liens or encumbrances. A quitclaim deed essentially passes an interest in real estate in what is best is described as an "as is" condition. Because the spouses mutually owned the real estate during the marriage, this type of instrument is appropriate. The theory is that both spouses equally are aware of any potential problems to the title.
A Massachusetts quitclaim deed is a very simple document. The deed contains blank spaces to insert the name of the spouse giving up an interest in the real estate in question and another space for the name of the spouse receiving full ownership of the property pursuant to a settlement decree or divorce decree. The legal description of the property is inserted. The quitclaim deed is signed by the person giving up her interest in front of a notary public.
Once the quitclaim deed is executed, Massachusetts law requires that the filing of the instrument with the registry of deeds in the county where the real estate is located. The transfer technically is not effective until the filing is made.
A quitclaim deed is not appropriate to conclude a real estate sales transaction in Massachusetts. Therefore, if a divorce settlement or decree directs the sale of marital real estate, a warranty deed is the proper instrument. A buyer will demand the guarantee of a clear title that is inherent in a warranty deed but not available with a Massachusetts quitclaim deed.
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