A quitclaim deed is a document that conveys whatever interest a grantor holds in a piece of real property to the grantee, but without making any claims or containing any warranties by the grantor concerning the legal title of the land. The legal definition of a “quitclaim deed” is best understood by breaking down the term into its two components: (1) quitclaim and (2) deed.
The word “quitclaim” can be used as both a noun and a verb. Thus, as a noun, a “quitclaim” is an individual’s formal, and legally effective, relinquishment of a presently held interest, a claim of a present or future interest, or a claim of a particular right. In its verb form, the term is defined as conveying all of an individual’s interest in real property, or to whatever extent he or she may have an interest in the property.
At common law, a “deed” was any written document that was signed and sealed which conveyed (or granted) an interest – any interest – in a tract of land, or real property. In the legal context today, a “deed” is still defined as a legal document through which real property is conveyed from one party to an individual or individuals.
Not surprisingly, a quitclaim deed is one that conveys an individual’s complete interest or claim in a particular tract of land or a specific parcel of real property; however, quitclaim deeds do not necessarily claim that the title of the land is valid. The easiest way to understand this concept of property law is through an example. Imagine that Albert owns a plot of land, Blackacre. He decides that he is going to convey (or sell) the land to a neighbor, Charlie. If Albert is not sure whether the title he has to the land is legally valid, he can execute a quitclaim deed conveying the property to Charlie. Regardless, the quitclaim deed would be sufficient to transfer ownership of the property from Albert to Charlie; however, if it turns out that Albert does not own the property or any interest in the property, then even if the quitclaim deed is executed, nothing is validly transferred to Charlie. In addition, Albert is not liable for breach because the quitclaim deed did not warranty that the title of Blackacre.
Overall, the most common use for quitclaim deeds is to remove uncontested defects in title to property allowing the parties to avoid litigation. Thus, the title to the property may be improper, but rather than going to court to argue about which party has superior ownership rights, and the like, parties will generally allow for the execution of a quitclaim deed to be sufficient to transfer the ownership rights in the sale of land.
However, there are various kinds of deeds that generally have differing characteristics and legal consequences. Some examples of other types of deeds include an absolute deed, which conveys title to land without an attached condition or encumbrance; a deed in fee, which conveys title to land in “fee simple” usually with covenants or restrictions in place; and a deed of gift, which is executed and delivered to the grantee (the individual receiving the gifted land) without consideration.