4 Things You Need to Know About a New York Quitclaim Deed

New York quitclaim laws are similar to most other states with a few exceptions. 

1. Transfer of Interest
You can only use a quitclaim deed to transfer your interest in the property and nothing more.

If you own a life estate interest in a parcel of property you cannot transfer a fee simple absolute interest in the property. If you own a leasehold interest in a parcel of property you cannot transfer a life estate interest in the property.

At its core, the person granting a quitclaim deed is really only saying "I'm not representing that I have any interest in the property. I'm only representing that if I have any interest in the property I'm transferring that interest to the grantee."

In other words, if you are buying property and you want the seller to represent that he or she actually owns the property you will need to use a different form of deed (e.g. warranty deed).

2. Unclear Language
If the language in the quitclaim deed is clear and unambiguous, you cannot bring in outside evidence to prove the deed intended to transfer something other than what is stated in the document.
If the language in the quitclaim deed is unclear, you can bring in outside evidence to prove the intent of the parties in drafting the document. 

If outside evidence does not resolve the issue, New York courts can determine that the document has no legal effect and, therefore, is not a valid quitclaim deed. 

How can language be unclear?

Quitclaim deeds are often created based on standardized forms. Depending upon who is completing the form, certain information can be incomplete or inaccurate.

One New York case involved a situation where the mother of two siblings signed a document purporting to transfer property to herself and her son as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

The document had a fatal flaw: it did not contain a property description.  Instead, there was a blank space in the area marked "property description."

The New York court declared the deed invalid and awarded the property to the other sibling.

3. Know What You're Signing
New York law presumes that the person signing a quitclaim deed knows what the deed says even if the person cannot read it. This is especially so if the signor executes the deed in front of a notary.

In short, New York courts have stated that if a signor can read, not to read the document is gross negligence. And if a signor cannot read, not to have the document read to him or her is equally negligent.

4. Title of "Quitclaim" Not Necessary
New York law does not require a document to be titled a "Quitclaim Deed" for the document to be treated as a quitclaim deed. 

Instead, New York courts will look at the language contained in the document and the intent of the parties in determining whether a quitclaim deed exists.

One New York court held that a document titled "Letter of Intent" was actually a quitclaim deed after determining that the signor of the Letter of Intent intended to transfer any interest he had in the property to the company to who the letter was addressed.

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