What Is a Deed?
While the ‘title’ to a property is the abstract concept of rightful ownership, a deed is a legal document recognizing an individual’s, individuals’, or legal entity’s ownership of a property. A deed will include a detailed description of the property, including property lines, and name the seller (grantor) and buyer (grantee). Buyers do not sign deeds; only sellers do.
Massachusetts law recognizes three types of deeds, each of which provides varying levels of protection for buyers and sellers. These three types are warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, and release deeds.
Of the three types of deeds recognized in Massachusetts, warranty deeds provide the most comprehensive protection for a buyer/grantee. This protection is fourfold:
- First, the deed guarantees that the current owner/seller/grantor owns the property in fee simple. i.e., the seller has absolute ownership of the property.
- Second, a warranty deed guarantees that the property is free from encumbrances (such as liens) aside from those listed in the deed.
- Third, the deed guarantees that the seller/grantor has the legal right to sell/transfer the title.
- Fourth, the grantor guarantees that he/she/they will defend against any title claims that arise regarding not only the grantor’s tenure as owner, but from prior.
Quitclaim deeds are the most common type of deed in Massachusetts. The primary difference between a quitclaim deed and a warranty deed is that while a warranty deed makes guarantees for the time before the grantor’s ownership, a quitclaim deed only makes guarantees for the time of the grantor’s ownership.
A quitclaim deed guarantees that there are no encumbrances from the grantor’s tenure other than those listed in the deed. A quitclaim deed also guarantees legal defense to title claims—but only those that involve the grantor’s tenure.
Of the three types of deed used in Massachusetts, a release deed provides the least protection for buyers. A release deed guarantees nothing; a release deed transfers a title—or whatever rights to a property a grantor might have, less than the full title.