Quiet Title Actions

From time to time, various disputes arise regarding the ownership of, or title to, real property. The most common remedy in these situations is for the aggrieved party to file a quiet title action in the Superior Court where the property is located. The purpose of a quiet title action is to establish title against adverse claims to real property or any interest in the property. In order to prevent the sale or encumbrance of real property during the pendency of the action, the party filing the lawsuit may record a Lis Pendens (lien) against the property. The owner may ask the court to expunge (remove) the Lis Pendens. When necessary, we file quiet title actions on behalf of clients or defend clients in these actions.

General Requirements for Deeds

A deed is the normal mechanism for transfer of title from seller to buyer. An estate in real property, other that an estate at will or for a term not exceeding one year, can be transferred only by operation of law or by an instrument in writing subscribed by the party disposing of the property, or by that person’s agent who is authorized in writing. In addition, a valid deed must include the following: (1) The grantor must be named in the body of the deed. If the grantor is not named, the deed must at least contain information from which the identity of the grantor can be ascertained with reasonable certainty; (2) The grantor must be competent; (3) The grantee must be an existing person, natural or artificial, capable of taking title. The deed will be sufficient if the identity of the grantee can be ascertained with reasonable particularity; (4) The deed must contain an intent to convey the property; (5) The property must be sufficiently described to allow the land to be identified. A deed executed in blank, without the name of the grantee, is void and passes no title. A forged deed, even if recorded, conveys no title.

Delivery

A deed does not transfer title to the grantee until it has been legally delivered. The term “delivery” does not refer to the mere physical act of manually transferring the instrument to the grantee. A legal delivery refers solely to the intention of the grantor. If the grantor has the requisite intent, there may be a legal delivery even though the instrument has not been physically given to the grantee. If the grantor does not have the required intent, there is no legal delivery even if the grantee obtains physical possession of the instrument.

Acknowledgment and Recording

It is not required that the grantor’s signature be witnessed, or acknowledged, in order for the transfer of title to be effective. However, the acknowledgment of the grantor’s signature is necessary in order for the document to be recorded. In addition, an acknowledgment permits the instrument to be introduced into evidence without further proof of its genuineness.

Effect of Recording

It is not necessary that a deed be recorded to transfer title; title is transferred by a duly executed and delivered unrecorded deed. However, the document should be recorded to give constructive notice to subsequent parties who deal with the property. Also, recordation of a deed in the public records is prima facie evidence of the existence and content of the original recorded document and its execution and delivery by each person who executed it. This presumption affects the burden of proof.

Form of Deed

There is no required form of deed that must be used to effectuate a conveyance. The Civil Code sets forth a simple form of grant deed that can be used to transfer title to real property but a document in a different form also can accomplish an effective conveyance. In order to be accepted for recording and to impart constructive notice, however, the deed must meet the requirements of the recording statutes.

       Grant Deed. A grant deed is the most common type of deed. The use of a grant deed implies certain warranties passing to the benefit of the grantee. Unless limited by the express terms of the deed, a grant deed contains an implied warranty that the grantor has not conveyed the same estate to another and that the estate being conveyed is free from encumbrance done, made, or suffered by the grantee.

      Quitclaim Deed. A quitclaim deed 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. A quitclaim deed does not contain any implied covenant or warranty of title, freedom from encumbrances, or the grantor’s right of possession.