Some people mistakenly view a quitclaim deed as a cure-all.

The traditional purpose is to allow a person who is unsure of what ownership rights, if any, they hold in a property to transfer all of those unknown rights to one or more recipients, known as grantees.

The owner, called the grantor, transfers the property with no guarantee that the title is clear and free of defects.

A quitclaim deed is the opposite of a general warranty deed in which the grantor does guarantee that he is conveying a clear title.

Although it is an incorrect name, this type of deed is called a quick claim deed by some. There is no such deed.

Some view a quitclaim deed as a document to be used for any type of transfer, whether they know what their ownership rights are or not.

They also think that they can prepare it themselves because it appears to be a relatively simple deed.

But that is generally a mistake.

Every property is unique and treating the transfer in a generic way is not appropriate.

Having a lawyer prepare the deed correctly avoids a defect in the chain of title that can be created by an amateur’s hit-or-miss deed.

In every deed, the wording is crucial and even every comma counts.

The cost of a new deed on a residential or non-business property will generally be in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands. Paying this amount protects current and future legal rights.

When a quitclaim deed is involved, the grantee(s) of the property should be especially interested in making sure everything is correct. Through a title search, a lawyer can explain what property and rights they will be receiving. A grantee might be willing to pay for the deed and title search to avoid later issues that can cost a lot more.

When considering any type of property transfer, consult with an attorney or if you are at least 60 years old you can call West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800-229-5068 to discuss the situation.

A recent example of a quitclaim deed gone bad involved a woman who thought she deeded partial ownership in her home to her new husband via a homemade quitclaim deed she prepared after reading information on the Internet.

But she did not do that.

A quitclaim deed transfers to the grantee all of the ownership rights the grantor holds, just as many other types of deeds do.

Unaware of what she had done, she learned after her husband died that her step-children had inherited the property from their father.

The unhappy wife had not intended that result. She no longer had any ownership rights in her home because of the deed she had drawn up on her own.

In addition to getting property ownership messed up, there can be other unintended consequences from handling a deed on a do-it-yourself basis without fully understanding the legal situation.

Future Medicaid eligibility for long term care and loan arrangements with financial institutions can be negatively impacted by such homemade deeds, among other things.

Also, the transfer may be totally ineffective, causing the owner to retain the property after all.

Real estate is an important asset to own and having it dealt with professionally saves time, effort and money today and in the future.

For assistance with property or other legal issues, state residents age 60 and over may contact Senior Legal Aid at 800-229-5068 to speak with a staff attorney for free.

(Deb Miller is a volunteer with West Virginia Senior Legal Aid.)

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