How to Transfer a Title in Oklahoma

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In the state of Oklahoma, a property owner typically transfers title to real estate by completing, or executing, a document with the necessary information to prepare a deed. A deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of a piece of real property. The grantor – the seller or original owner transferring the property – must sign the document.

The definition of “title” is different from the definition of “deed.” Title is the total set of rights that a person has with respect to ownership and use of a piece of property. Title can be limited by grants of access to the land to individuals such as neighbors. In Oklahoma, a person 18 or older has the right to own and transfer real property.

Transferring Title On Death

The grantee is the individual who receives or purchases the property. A grantor can also transfer title to real estate through a will; by transferring the property to an heir or person who has not been named in a will; by virtue of state intestacy statutes; a transfer on death deed; a deed with a right of survivorship clause; or a trust.

A valid deed, will, conveyance under an intestacy statute or transfer on death deed changes the name on the title in Oklahoma.

Requirements of a Deed in Oklahoma

A deed is effective when the document is executed. A deed gives other parties constructive notice of who owns the property after the deed has been filed with the local county clerk's office. Constructive notice is the presumption that a party has the ability to discover who owns the property after researching county property records.

In Oklahoma, a deed must:

  • Be in writing.
  • Be entirely in English.
  • Provide notice of one or more transfers of real property by stating the name of the grantors, grantees, date of transfer, and a statement that grantees have title to the property.
  • State the amount of consideration paid for the property. (This is a matter of custom, not required by Oklahoma statute.)
  • Be signed by the grantor or an agent acting on the grantors’ behalf under power of attorney, a legal authority provided by the grantor, if valid power of attorney document is on file in the county.
  • Contain a legal description of the property, meaning a formal and detailed description that identifies location and restrictions on a specific property. For example, the addition, block and lot, section, township and range and metes and bounds. If the property is a condominium unit, the deed should state the unit number or letter. The legal description is typically followed by the property address.
  • Contain the address where the county clerk should deliver deed after recording it. This is usually the new owner’s address, which should be on the deed if the property was sold.
  • Provide current owner’s marital status.
  • Must identify trust if deed transfers real estate to an express written trust, meaning a trust that is created knowingly and intentionally. Deed that conveys title to a trustee must adequately identify the trust so third parties know a trust exists. A recorded memorandum of trust serves as evidence that trust exists.
  • Be notarized. Current owner’s signature must be acknowledged under seal by notary public or other authorized officer. Acknowledgement indicates that the identity of the person who signed the document is verified, and signor willingly signed the document.
  • Both spouses must sign deed if the grantors are married and the real property qualifies as homestead property, meaning the house where the grantors primarily reside, except if a non-owner spouse lives outside Oklahoma. If property is not a homestead, both spouses should execute the deed, or the non-owner spouse should execute an affidavit, a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation attesting that property is not a homestead and giving up any claims to the property.
  • Trustee should execute deed in the name of the trust if a trust owns the real property. There must be written evidence of the trust, such as a memorandum of trust, in the county’s property records.

It is not necessary that a witness sign a deed for the deed to be valid. There is a recording fee to file a deed, which varies by county. In Tulsa County, the fee for the first page of the deed is $13; for additional pages of the same instrument the fee is $2 per page.

Deeds on Indian Land

Title documents, including deeds, that affect Indian land, meaning land that is owned by members of Native American tribes, must be recorded in the Indian Land Record of Title of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). This is the official record of title documents and instruments affecting Indian land.

The Division of Land Titles and Records and its 18 tribal land titles and records offices (LTROs) are the official federal offices of record for all documents that affect title to Indian lands.

Transferring Tribal Land

A party who transfers lands within a Native American tribe’s jurisdiction must provide documents affecting title to trust and restricted lands to the program for that tribe.

For example, if a party made a transfer to a trust or restricted land within the Five Civilized Tribes of the Choctaw Nation’s jurisdiction, or land over which that tribe has authority, that party should provide documents showing the transfer to the land title and records program of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

The land title and records program of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and similar programs of tribes with authority over land prepare packages to submit to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Types of Deeds in Oklahoma

  • Quitclaim deed:‌ Transfers whatever title or right to the property that a grantor possesses. A quitclaim deed can transfer less than full ownership to the property. For example, a property may be subject to an easement, the right of a person who is not the property owner to use the land for a special purpose. One example of an easement is the right of a neighbor to fish in a creek on the property. A quitclaim deed would transfer the owner’s right to possess and occupy the land subject to the easement. Quitclaim deeds are legal in Oklahoma.
  • Warranty deed:‌ Conveys the grantor’s complete claim to the property to the grantee. A warranty deed guarantees to the grantee clear, clean and marketable title. A warranty deed usually grants a fuller set of rights to real property than a quitclaim deed.
  • Special warranty deed:‌ A deed in which the seller guarantees that title to the property was not impaired during the time the seller held the title. The seller does not make assurances about the title of previous landholders. The existence of a special warranty deed may indicate that the title is impaired in some way.

Transfer on Death Deed

Oklahoma allows the creation of transfer on death deeds. A transfer on death deed (TOD) is a way to transfer property after the owner dies without the conveyance being subject to gift taxes and the probate process. Probate occurs when a county probate court distributes the assets of the decedent, or person who died.

Through a TOD, a grantor names a grantee beneficiary, the person who will take title to the property after the grantor dies. A TOD works in this way:

  • Land is conveyed after the owner dies, not when the TOD is recorded with the county.
  • TOD does not require the sale of the property or an exchange of money for the land. It is not required that a signature, consent, agreement or notification be provided to the grantee beneficiary.
  • Owner may revoke or change the grantee beneficiary before the owner dies.
  • Grantee beneficiary takes the same title to the land that the owner held. Title may be imperfect if the real estate was subject to contracts, mortgages, liens or leases signed by the owner.
  • TOD becomes public record once it is filed with the county.

Right of Survivorship Clause

When two spouses own property, and the document regarding ownership, such as a deed, includes a right of survivorship clause, the survivor automatically becomes the owner of the property. The survivor becomes the owner upon their spouse’s death.

The survivor does not inherit the property. This is because the survivor already owned it before the other spouse died. If the two spouses held the land subject to certain restrictions, such as a neighbor’s right to fish in the creek, the survivor takes the land subject to those restrictions. They do not get full and clear title to the property because their spouse died.

Revocable Living Trusts

A person has the power to create a revocable living trust, also known as an inter vivos trust, that they can amend at any time. A trustor, the person who creates the trust, sets up the trust during their lifetime, and the beneficiaries, the people who receive property from the trust, take the property when the trustor dies.

Typically, the trustor names themselves as the trustee, the person who manages the contents of the trust and also names a successor trustee, the person who will manage and distribute property after the initial trustee dies or cannot act as trustee.

If two spouses create a shared living trust, a successor trustee manages the property after both spouses die. An irrevocable living trust is another type of living trust, defined as such because it cannot be changed after the trustor signs it.

Establishing a Revocable Trust

In order to establish a revocable trust, a trustor should:

  • Determine whether the trust will be an individual or shared trust.
  • Determine what property will be in the trust.
  • Name a successor trustee.
  • Name the beneficiaries of the trust.
  • Execute the trust document.
  • Sign the trust document before a notary public.
  • Change the title of trust property to show that trustees now own the property as the trustees of the trust.

Consult an Attorney When Transferring Property

A property owner who is interested in transferring Oklahoma real estate should talk to a property law attorney. If the transfer is occurring because of a divorce, the property owner should also consult a divorce attorney.

If the property owner wants to transfer the real estate upon their death, they should talk to an estate planning or estates and trust attorney. If the transfer relates to property under the authority of a Native American tribe, the property owner should talk to an attorney experienced in Indian law.

Contesting a Will

A beneficiary who wants to contest, or challenge, a will because they think it is invalid should consult with an estate attorney. Grounds to contest a will typically include:

  • Undue influence:‌ When a person executes a will acting under excessive persuasion from another party.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity:‌ When a person makes or signs a will without being legally capable of doing so. There is a lack of testamentary capacity if the property owner was underage or was not lucid when they signed the will.
  • Lack of testamentary formalities:‌ Will was not executed per requirements under state law. For example, if the person with property did not sign the will, it is likely to be invalid.
  • Duress:‌ Person owning the property created or signed their will as result of threats.
  • Menace:‌ Person intentionally acted to place under harm the person owning the property. Menacing acts should have occurred in relation to the person with the property creating or signing the will.
  • Fraud:‌ Individual deceived the person with the property about the will. For example, individual told owner of property to sign a birthday card, but the document was actually their will.
  • Revocation:‌ Person with the property declared some or all of their will invalid.