To be effective, a real property transfer in the state of California must follow particular rules. While vehicles are transferred by changing title, real estate must be transferred by deed. Deeds are written instruments that can be, and usually are, acknowledged and filed with the Recorder's Office to put others on notice of the change in legal ownership.
Someone transferring property ownership has their choice of different types of deeds in California, but the grant deed is the most commonly used. It's easy to find a template online or obtain one from an attorney. Grant deeds are not difficult to execute but, to be effective, the deed must meet certain state requirements.
What Is a Grant Deed?
The purpose of a grant deed is to transfer an interest in property. The only way to transfer real estate in California is with a written deed, and the grant deed is most commonly used form of deed.
Different types offer different protections to the buyer. A quitclaim deed, for example, offers no protections; it simply transfers any interest a grantor may have in the property without guaranteeing what, if any, interest they have. On the other hand, a California grant deed contains two important implied guarantees. These may be written out in the deed, but they are implied in the deed even if they are not mentioned.
In the first implied covenant, the grantor promises that they have not conveyed the same interest in the property to anyone else. In the second, they covenant that the property will be conveyed without any encumbrances on the property made by the grantor or any person claiming under them, including taxes, assessments and other liens. This warranty includes only encumbrances made during the grantor's possession of the property.
Requisites for a Grant Deed
The term grant deed comes from the use of the term "grant" to describe a conveyance. Grantor is used to describe the person giving up a property interest, and grantee is used to identify the person getting the interest. For example, in a house sale, the grantor is the seller, the grantee is the buyer. The names of both the grantor and the grantee must be included in a grant deed. The grantor must sign the deed, and it is typical, though not mandated, that the grantee sign their acceptance.
A California grant deed must also describe the property in which an interest is being transferred and mention that it is being conveyed by deed. The purpose of this requirement is obvious – to identify exactly what real estate is involved. While the most commonly used description is the property's street address or legal desription, the deed will be valid as long as the particular property being conveyed is clear. A conveyance of "the 10 acres I own in Marin County, California" will be valid as long as the grantor owns no more than 10 acres in that county.
Other Grant Deed Requirements
California law does not mandate other specific language that is typically included in the deed or other actions that are usually taken by the grantor. The deed is effective even without them. For example, it is not necessary to enter the date the deed was made or the amount of money paid. And a grant deed will be valid if the grantor's signature on the grant deed is not notarized and even if it's not recorded in the local land records.
However, these steps are often taken in order to avoid complications later. Notarizing the signature obviously precludes arguments as to whether it was actually the grantor who signed the deed, and failure to record the deed can cause any number of issues.
Recording a Deed in California
California Government Code provides that, after being acknowledged, any instrument or judgment affecting the title to or possession of real property may be recorded. While California does not require grant deeds to be recorded, almost all of them are in order to protect the grantee from any later transfer of the same property. As long as the grant deed is recorded, any potential purchaser would be on notice of the earlier sale to a new owner.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.