What is a Quitclaim Deed in California?

What is a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed is an instrument used in real estate transactions that transfers an interest in real property without warranty of title. Miller and Starr, the leading secondary source on California real estate, defines a quitclaim deed as one that: “transfers to the grantee all of the right, title, and interest that the grantor had at the time the deed was executed and delivered which are capable of being conveyed by a deed. It transfers whatever interest the grantor may have in the property, whether legal or equitable, and is as effective as any other form of conveyance to transfer the grantor’s title to the grantee. Thus, if the grantor has the fee title to the property conveyed, the quitclaim deed conveys the fee title. When the quitclaim deed conveys the right, title, and interest of a beneficiary of deed of trust to the trustor, the effect is not limited to the reconveyance of the lien of the deed of trust, but includes any interest the grantor presently has in the property described as conveyed.”[1]Miller & Starr, Quitclaim Deeds—In general, 3 Cal. Real Est. (4th ed.) § 8:13

A Quitclaim Deed Transfers the Present Interests of the Grantor

The major distinction is that a “quitclaim deed transfers whatever present right or interest the grantor has in the property.”[2]City of Manhattan Beach v. Superior Ct. (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 232, 257 citing Westlake v. Silva (1942) 49 Cal.App.2d 476, 478 In other words, a quitclaim deed gives not guarantee as to the condition of the title. “A quitclaim deed does not contain any implied covenant or warranty of title, freedom from encumbrances, or the grantor’s right of possession. It is often used to release all of the interest that the grantor may have or claim to have in the property described at the time of the deed. It is a valid instrument even though the grantor does not have any possessory estate or present right to occupy the property. A quitclaim deed only transfers whatever interest the grantor had in the described property at the time the conveyance was made. It may convey an equitable title that can be perfected into legal title in some instances, or it may be construed as also including additional language of covenant or warranty. With these narrow exceptions, a quitclaim deed ordinarily does not convey any after-acquired title received by the grantor subsequent to the quitclaim deed.[3]Miller & Starr, Quitclaim Deeds—In general, 3 Cal. Real Est. (4th ed.) § 8:13

Importantly, a quitclaim deed is defined as transferring the “interest that the grantor has at the time the deed was executed and delivered.” This means that if the transferor quitclaims a supposed interest in a property to the transferee, but does not actually have an interest in the property, then the transferee also does not have an interest in the property. The transferee also has no legal recourse against the transferor. For this reason, quitclaim deeds are often used between spouses or family members to cure title defects or eliminate potential claims against the property.

By contrast, a grant deed requires that the interest has not already been conveyed to someone else and that the interest is free of encumbrances. These guarantees, known as implied covenants, provide more security for buyers. Grant deeds are the standard instrument used to transfer title to real property.

Signing a Quitclaim Deed in a Divorce

A quitclaim deed is the fastest way to transfer interest from one spouse to the other as part of property division in a divorce. This includes the possibility that any liens and debts on the property will be transferred from the grantor (the spouse signing over his or her interest in the property) to the grantee (the spouse receiving the interest). Before signing over any property interests in a family law proceeding, consult with an experienced divorce attorney in California.

Quitclaim Deed or Partition Action?

As explained above, a quitclaim deed is a voluntary transfer of current interest in a property. Problems can arise quickly if a co-owner does not want to voluntarily transfer his or her interest in the property. If you have a co-owner who refuses to sign over his or her interest and finally end an unsuitable co-ownership relationship, a partition action will bring an end to your co-ownership dispute. A partition action is a court order forcing the sale of jointly owned real property and ensures that all owners receive their equitable interest in the property. A real estate litigation attorney with experience in partition actions can advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of filing a partition action vs. signing a quitclaim deed.

Contact a Real Estate Litigation Attorney

Quitclaim deeds that are not properly executed can create issues further down the road for both purchasers and sellers of real estate. If you have found that a quitclaim deed has created complicated legal issues for you, or that you are interested in pursing a partition action against your co-owner, the real estate litigation attorneys and partition attorneys at Talkov Law may be able to help. Please note that our attorneys do not draft quitclaim deeds. An escrow or title company may be able to assist you on how to properly draft and record a quitclaim deed. To speak with an attorney regarding a real estate litigation issue, call (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or submit your issue at info(at)talkovlaw.com.


1, 3 Miller & Starr, Quitclaim Deeds—In general, 3 Cal. Real Est. (4th ed.) § 8:13
2 City of Manhattan Beach v. Superior Ct. (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 232, 257 citing Westlake v. Silva (1942) 49 Cal.App.2d 476, 478
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