Deed

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Deed


Quick Summary of Deed


A legal document intended to bind its signatory to strong legal obligations, such as a transfer of land or execution of certain metas of contract (see: Contract by deed). A deed has historically been associated with a certain degree of ceremony, particularly the requirement that it be ‘signed, sealed, and delivered’. In recent years this ceremony has become largely symbolic; what distinguishes a contract by deed from a ‘contract under hand’ (see: Contract under hand) is the wording used and the fact that it must be signed by a witness (two witnesses in some cases).




What is the dictionary definition of Deed?

Dictionary Definition


  1. n. the written document which transfers title (ownership) or an interest in real property to another person. The deed must describe the real property, name the party transferring the property (grantor), the party receiving the property (grantee) and be signed by the grantor, who must then acknowledge before a notary public that he/she/it executed the deed. To complete the transfer (conveyance) the deed must be recorded in the office of the County Recorder or Recorder of Deeds. There are two basic types of deeds: a warranty deed, which guarantees that the grantor owns title, and the quitclaim deed, which transfers only that interest in the real property which the grantor actually has. The quitclaim is often used among family members or from one joint owner to the other when there is little question about existing ownership, or just to clear the title. This is not to be confused with a deed of trust, which is a form of mortgage.
  2. v. to transfer title by a written deed.

Full Definition of Deed


A deed is a legal instrument used to grant a right. Deeds are part of the broader category of documents under seal. Deeds can best be described as formalised contracts, requiring the agreement of more than one person. Deeds can, therefore, be distinguished from covenants, which being also under seal, are unilateral promises. The deed is best known as the method of transferring title to real estate from one person to another, often using a description of its “metes and bounds.” However, by the general definition, powers of attorney, commissions, patents, and even diplomas conferring academic degrees are also deeds.

Historically at common law, for an instrument to be a valid deed it needed five things:

  • It must indicate that the instrument itself conveys some privilege or thing to someone. This is indicated by using the word hereby or the phrase by these presents in the sentence indicating the gift.
  • The grantor must have the legal ability to grant the thing or privilege.
  • The person receiving the privilege or thing must have the legal capacity to receive it.
  • A seal must be affixed to it. Most jurisdictions have eliminated this requirement and replaced it with the signature of the grantor. However, for conveyances of real estate, most jurisdictions require that the deed be acknowledged before a notary public or a civil law notary and some may require a witness or witnesses in addition.
  • It must be delivered to and accepted by the recipient.

Conditions attached to the acceptance of a deed are known as covenants.

Types Of Deeds

General Warranty And Special Warranty

In the transfer of real estate, a deed conveys ownership from the old owner (the grantor) to the new owner (the grantee) and can include various warranties. The precise name of these warranties differs by jurisdiction. However, the basic difference between them is the degree to which the grantor warrants the title. The grantor may give a general warranty of title against any claims, or the warranty may be limited only to claims which occurred after the grantor obtained the real estate. The latter type of deed is usually known as a special warranty deed. While a general warranty deed is normally used for residential real estate sales and transfers, special warranty deeds are more commonly used in commercial transactions.

Bargain And Sale Deed

A third type of deed, known as a bargain and sale deed, implies that the grantor has the right to convey title but makes no warranties against encumbrances. This type of deed is most commonly used by court officials or fiduciaries that hold the property by force of law rather than title, such as properties seized for unpaid taxes and sold at sheriff’s sale, or an Executor.

Quitclaim Deed

A so-called quitclaim deed is (in most states) actually not a deed at all–it is actually an estoppel disclaiming rights of the person signing it to property.

Deed of trust

In some jurisdictions, a deed of trust is used as an equivalent to a mortgage. A trust deed isn’t like the other types of deeds; it’s not used to transfer property directly. It is commonly used in some states (California, for example) to transfer title to land to a “trustee,” usually a trust or title company, which holds the title as security (“in escrow”) for a loan. When the loan is paid off, title is transferred to the borrower by recording a release of the obligation and the trustee’s contingent ownership is extinguished. Otherwise (upon default), the trustee will liquidate the property (with a new deed) and offset the lender’s loss with the proceeds.

Recording

Usually, the transfer of ownership of real estate is registered at a cadastre in the United Kingdom. In most parts of the United States, deeds must be submitted to the Recorder of deeds, who acts as a cadastre, to be registered. An unrecorded deed may be valid proof of ownership between the parties but may have no effect upon third-party claims until disclosed or recorded. A local statute may prescribe a period beyond which unrecorded deeds become void as to third parties, at least as to intervening acts.

Joint ownership

Ownership transfer may also be crafted within deeds to pass by demise, as where a property is held in a concurrent estate such as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” (JTWROS), “tenants by the entirety”, or as a life estate. In each case, the title to the property immediately and automatically vests in the named survivor(s) upon the death of the other tenant(s).

Pardons as deeds

In the United States of America, a pardon of the President was at one time considered to be a deed and thus needed to be accepted by the recipient. This made it impossible to grant a pardon posthumously. However, in the case of Henry Ossian Flipper, this view was altered when President Bill Clinton pardoned him in 1999.


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Definition Sources


Definitions for Deed are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 27th April, 2020 | 1 Views.