Different Deeds Mean Different Things
In the world of real estate transactions, deeds play a crucial role in transferring property ownership from one party to another. Ohio, like many other states, offers several types of deeds, each with its own set of characteristics and implications. Understanding the differences between these deeds is essential for both buyers and sellers. In this article, we will explore four common types of deeds in Ohio: General Warranty Deed, Limited Warranty Deed, Quitclaim Deed, and Fiduciary Deed, and highlight the distinctions between them.
General Warranty Deed
A General Warranty Deed is one of the most comprehensive and protective deeds available in Ohio. When a property is conveyed through a General Warranty Deed, the seller (grantor) provides an extensive set of warranties and assurances to the buyer (grantee). These warranties include:
a. Warranty of Title: The seller guarantees that they hold clear and marketable title to the property and will defend the buyer against any claims or defects in title that may arise before or during their ownership.
b. Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: The seller promises that the buyer will have peaceful and undisturbed possession of the property, free from interference or claims by others.
c. Covenant Against Encumbrances: The seller assures the buyer that there are no outstanding liens or encumbrances on the property, except as specified in the deed.
General Warranty Deeds provide the highest level of protection to buyers and are typically used in traditional real estate transactions. They are considered the gold standard of deeds.
Example: Farmer buys a farm from Seller. Later, Farmer tries to use the farm as collateral and discovers there is an unpaid contractor's lien from the previous owner to Seller. With a General Warranty Deed, Seller is responsible for addressing and clearing the lien so that Farmer can proceed with their plans.
Limited Warranty Deed
A Limited Warranty Deed, also known as a Special Warranty Deed, offers a more limited set of warranties compared to a General Warranty Deed. In a Limited Warranty Deed, the seller guarantees that they have not caused any defects in title during their ownership, but they do not warrant against defects that may have existed before their ownership. Essentially, the seller is only responsible for title issues that occurred while they owned the property.
Limited Warranty Deeds are commonly used in commercial real estate transactions and can offer some protection to buyers while limiting the seller's liability.
Example. Using the previous example with a Limited Warranty Deed, Seller would not be liable to Farmer because the title issue was created prior to Seller owning the property. Seller would only be liable to Farmer if the title issue was created while Seller owned the farm.
A Quitclaim Deed is a deed that conveys the seller's interest in a property without making any warranties or guarantees about the quality of title. Essentially, the seller is saying, "I'm giving you whatever interest I have in this property, if any." Quitclaim Deeds are often used in situations where property is transferred between family members, in divorce settlements, or to clear up questions about property ownership.
It's important to note that while Quitclaim Deeds provide no warranties, they can be a quick and straightforward way to transfer property interests when the parties involved trust each other.
Example: Sarah and her sibling, David, jointly inherited a farm. Sarah decides to buy out David's share, and they use a Quitclaim Deed for the transfer. David, by signing the Quitclaim Deed, is essentially relinquishing any interest he may have in the farm without making any claims or guarantees about the farm's title. This allows Sarah to take sole ownership.
A Fiduciary Deed is used when the person transferring the property is acting as a fiduciary, such as an executor of an estate or a trustee of a trust. These deeds convey the property interest held by the estate or trust to the designated beneficiaries. A fiduciary deed warrants that the fiduciary is acting in the scope of their appointed authority, but it does not guarantee title of the property. This deed relieves the executor or trustee of liability for title defects so that people will be more willing to serve in a fiduciary capacity.
Example. Sarah's father passed away and she is the trustee of his trust. As part of the trust administration, she needs to transfer ownership of her father's farm to herself and her siblings. Sarah would use a Fiduciary Deed to convey the property to the beneficiaries. If a title defect is later discovered, Sarah will not be liable to the beneficiaries.
In Ohio, the choice of deed in a real estate transaction is a critical decision that can have significant legal and financial implications for both buyers and sellers. General Warranty Deeds offer the highest level of protection, while Limited Warranty Deeds limit the seller's warranties to their period of ownership. Quitclaim Deeds provide no warranties at all but can be useful in certain situations. Fiduciary Deeds are used in trust and estate scenarios, recognizing the grantor's fiduciary role.
Before entering into any real estate transaction in Ohio, it is advisable to consult with legal professionals who can provide guidance on the most appropriate type of deed for your specific situation. By understanding the differences between these deeds, you can make informed decisions and ensure a smooth and legally sound property transfer process.