A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What is a "quitclaim deed"?

May 24, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

What is the legal definition of "quit claim deed? Or is it quick claim deed? This term has come up most often in discussions about divorce.

It's quitclaim, actually, although some jurisdictions separate it into two words, sometimes hyphenating, in order to emphasize its nature, essentially, "I quit claiming I have a right to this property." It's a release of title, often used when rights to a property are owned by more than one party, and then certain rights are relinquished. Actually, it's used most often when UNcertain rights are relinquished; i.e., when a married couple buys a house, it's rarely specified exactly who owns exactly what portion of the house, or which rights, so the quitclaim can't specify. A quitclaim deed differs from other deeds in that it may not specify exactly what rights are being transferred (as opposed to, say, a warranty deed, where the grantor explicitly guarantees that they have good title to the property). You'll often see a variation of "Seller hereby sells and transfers only such right, title and interest as it may hold and that said chattels sold herein are sold subject to such prior liens, encumbrances and adverse claims, if any, that may exist" In other words, I can write a quitclaim deed to the Statue of Liberty, relinquishing any claims to the property, since I never had any anyway.

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