Legal Requirements for Deeds

In Virginia, only attorneys or property owners can legally prepare a deed. To be legally recognized, a deed in Virginia has to satisfy several key state-specific requirements:

  • It should be an original or a first-generation printout as per Va. Code Ann. § 55.108.
  • It should be written in printed ink or typed in ribbon copy, complying with general recording
    prerequisites according to Va. Code Ann. § 55.108.
  • All individual names need to be underlined or written in capital letters when they first appear in
    the deed, as specified in Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-223(i).
  • The first page should contain the name of the individual or entity that drafted the deed, in line
    with Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-223(v).
  • It should include the names of all grantors and grantees, as mentioned in Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-
  • If the deed is exempt from recordation tax (like Virginia TOD deeds), the grounds for exemption
    must be stated on the deed's face as per Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-223(iii).

Beyond these legal requirements, each county clerk’s office may have their own standards regarding the deed’s paper size, plats, margins, and font size. Some counties may also need the deed to come with a bar-coded cover sheet that aids the clerk in properly filing and indexing the deed, as per Va. Code Ann. §17.1-227.1. This cover sheet can be generated online using the Virginia court’s website or county specific pages.

As attorneys specialized in deed preparation in Virginia, we frequently encounter queries about property deeds. Different types of deeds are used in Virginia for various purposes, and understanding their differences is vital to select the appropriate one for your circumstances.

Real estate transactions can be complex, and having a knowledgeable legal team can help you navigate the process, including deed preparation, and avoid costly legal disputes. This article addresses some common questions about deeds that we receive at our law firm, Anderson Legal Group, PC. For specific inquiries about your situation, feel free to contact us at (757) 698-2244.

Deed V. Title

Though the terms “deed” and “title” are often used interchangeably in real estate transactions, they have different meanings. A deed is the actual physical document transferring title of the property from one person or entity to another, whereas “title” refers to the bundle of legal rights that go along with ownership as documented in the deed.

What is a Deed? – A property deed is a legal document employed in real estate transactions to convey the title of real property from a seller (grantor) to a buyer (grantee). The property can be land or anything attached to it, such as a house or a road. A deed is required to demonstrate property ownership.

To be legally valid, the deed must be signed, notarized, and recorded with the clerk’s office in the county where the property is situated. The recorded deed will appear in any future title searches, allowing for traceable ownership.

There are multiple types of deeds in Virginia, including General Warranty Deed, Special Warranty Deed and Quitclaim Deed.

Limited Liability Companies – A limited liability company (LLC) shares the limited liability of a corporation but is not held to the same strict management requirements under law. The LLC is, however, a legal entity created only by state law. An LLC is generally defined as a business entity that consists of one or more persons. The LLC has managers, members and sometimes, employees. The owners (or members) of the LLC participate in the management of the business. Members, managers and employees are not held personally liable for the debts of the business.

General Warranty Deed

A General Warranty Deed is a type of deed used in real estate transactions that provides the highest level of protection to the buyer. With this document, the seller (grantor) guarantees that they hold clear title to a piece of real estate and have a right to sell it to the buyer (grantee).

The term “warranty” refers to the grantor’s legal promise that they own the property and that there are no liens, debts, or any other encumbrances other than those stated in the deed itself. In addition, the grantor assures the buyer that they will defend the title against the claims of any person or entity.

The warranties provided under a General Warranty Deed are not limited to the time the grantor owned the property. They extend back to the property’s origins. This means the grantor is guaranteeing that there were no issues with the property’s title before they took possession of the property.

The main features of a General Warranty Deed include:

  • Covenant of Seisin: The grantor assures they own the property and have the right to sell it.
  • Covenant against Encumbrances: The grantor assures the property is free from liens or other
    encumbrances, except as specifically disclosed in the deed.
  • Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: The grantor assures that the buyer’s ownership will be
    unchallenged by someone with a better claim to the property.
  • Covenant of Further Assurance: The grantor promises to do whatever is necessary in the future
    to perfect the title if it’s found to be imperfect.

Given the assurances provided, General Warranty Deeds are commonly used in real estate sales
transactions, especially when the buyer is obtaining a mortgage to finance the purchase. As with any legal document, it’s recommended that both buyers and sellers consult with a knowledgeable real estate attorney to fully understand the protections provided and the potential liabilities they might face.

Special Warranty Deed

A Special Warranty Deed is a type of deed where the seller (grantor) guarantees that they have not done anything to hinder the title to the property during their period of ownership. In other words, the grantor warrants against defects that arose only during their ownership of the property.

This is different from a General Warranty Deed where the grantor warrants against all defects in the title, even if they occurred before the grantor took ownership.

In a Special Warranty Deed, the grantor guarantees two things:

  1. That the grantor has received title.
  2. That the property was not encumbered during the time the grantor held title, except as
    otherwise noted in the deed.

Thus, if any title issues arise from before the grantor’s ownership of the property, the grantor has no liability. Special Warranty Deeds are often used in commercial property transactions or transactions when the seller (grantor) is a fiduciary, such as a Trustee or Executor, while General Warranty Deeds are more commonly used in residential transactions.

As always, it’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable real estate attorney when dealing with property deeds to understand the obligations and protections that come with each type.

Quitclaim Deed

A Quitclaim Deed is a legal document that transfers the grantor’s (seller’s) ownership rights, if any, in a piece of property to a grantee (buyer). The distinctive feature of a Quitclaim Deed is that it offers no warranties or guarantees regarding the quality of the title being transferred. It only operates to convey whatever interest the grantor may have in the property, if any.

In essence, a Quitclaim Deed says to the grantee: “I’m not making any promises about what ownership interest I have in this property, but whatever interest I do have, I’m transferring to you.” Unlike other types of deeds, the grantor in a Quitclaim Deed doesn’t assure that they legally own the property or that there are no liens against it.

Because Quitclaim Deeds do not guarantee a clear title, they are most often used between family members, in divorce situations, or where the property ownership is not in question, such as moving property to a trust or transferring ownership in a business context. They are not typically used in traditional real estate transactions where the buyer needs assurance of a clear title.

In conclusion, a Quitclaim Deed is a quick and straightforward way to move property among known entities, but it provides limited protections for the grantee. Hence, it’s essential to consult a real estate attorney when dealing with Quitclaim Deeds to fully understand the potential risks and benefits.

Necessity of Recording

In Virginia, if a deed is not recorded, it is not legally enforceable and the purchaser (grantee) won’t have any legal claim to the property. Furthermore, if you attempt to sell the property without having recorded the deed, you could encounter legal complications, as potential buyers will not be able to confirm that you are the rightful owner of the property.

A deed serves as a public record of property ownership. By recording a deed in the county clerk’s office where the property is located, the grantee’s ownership is made official and the deed becomes public record. This allows any future title searches to trace the ownership of the property.

Therefore, it’s always recommended to record a deed as soon as possible after the transaction is completed. If you have questions or need assistance with the process, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced real estate attorney.

If you lose your deed, a copy can be requested from the clerk’s office in the county where the property is located, for a small fee. It’s highly recommended to engage a deed preparation attorney to ensure the deed is correctly prepared, executed, and recorded.

Transfer on Death Deed

Under Virginia law, ownership rights to real property can be transferred to a named beneficiary or beneficiaries upon death without going through probate. This is done using a document called a “transfer on death deed.” Other options include joint tenancies, tenancies by the entirety (between spouses), living trusts, and wills.

If you’re seeking a “deed attorney,” contact Anderson Legal Group, PC. We are here for all your estate planning and real estate needs. To schedule a consultation, call us at (757) 698-2244, or fill out our online form.

Please note, this information is primarily for educational purposes and may not reflect the most recent legal changes in your area. None of the details in this post should be interpreted as legal advice from the individual writer or the associated law firm. It’s not meant to replace professional counsel on any subject matter or establish an attorney-client relationship. Readers should obtain specific legal or professional advice tailored to their unique circumstances from an attorney licensed in their state, country, or other jurisdiction as necessary.