The Difference Between the Enhanced Life Estate Deed, Warranty Deed and Quitclaim Deed

On June 19, I wrote an article explaining the benefits of the Enhanced Life Estate Deed. The article has quickly become one of my most popular reads. Professor Gerry W. Beyer of the Texas Tech University School of Law commented on my article in his post titled Lady Bird Deed. Other estate planning lawyers and professors have e-mailed me extolling the benefits of the Enhanced Life Estate Deed.

Enhanced Life Estate Deed
As explained in my Enhanced Life Estate Deed article, a Lady Bird Deed and an Enhanced Life Estate Deed are the same thing. The documents allow you to deed your home or other real estate to your beneficiaries now and reserve for yourself a life estate interest (i.e. the right to live in the home for the rest of your life). This helps your beneficiaries because the property does not go into probate when you pass away. Instead, the property passes directly to your beneficiaries without additional costs and administrative paperwork.

Another important distinguishing and unique feature of the Enhanced Life Estate Deed is that it reserves to you the right to sell the property at any time without your beneficiaries' consent. This is not the case with a Warranty Deed or Quit claim Deed. Should you sell the property after executing an Enhanced Life Estate Deed the interest your beneficiaries have in the property is dissolved. This means you can sell the property free and clear of any claims your beneficiaries might have on it under the Enhanced Life Estate Deed.

Another important feature of the Enhanced Life Estate Deed is that your property is not subject to the bad financial decisions of your beneficiaries. Should your beneficiaries have tax liens, judgment liens or other encumberances against them, the liens do not become liens against your property. This is particularly important in states with statutes that prohibit attaching a family's homestead to judgment and tax liens.

General Warranty Deed
A General Warranty Deed is a document which conveys all of your interest in and title to your home or other property. This type of deed does not give you any right to remain on the property after the closing. Once the deed is executed, you are out. This is the type of deed used in most standard real estate purchase and sale contracts to transfer property.

In addition, the General Warranty Deed warrants that if the title is defective or has a “cloud” on it (such as mortgage claims, tax liens, title claims, judgments, or mechanic's liens against it) the person executing the deed may be held liable by the buyer of the property. This means you (as seller) will have to pay the costs of clearing the title defects.

Quitclaim Deed
A Quitclaim Deed is a document which transfers any interest you may have in a particular piece of property to someone else. This type of deed is most often used to clear the title when the property interest of the person signing the deed is questionable. A Quitclaim Deed is basically your way of saying "I don't know if I have any interest in this piece of property, but if I do I am relinquishing that interest."

By accepting such a deed the buyer assumes all the risks. Unlike the General Warranty Deed, a Quitclaim Deed contains no warranties as to the title. It simply transfers to the buyer whatever interest the grantor has. If you have a question as to whether someone may claim an interest in property you own or are interested in purchasing request that the person execute a Quitclaim Deed. You may have to pay them something for it, but in the long run it may be worth it.
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