If you need to define a deed, this refers to the legal document used to transfer a property from one owner to another.

What's the Difference Between a Property Deed and a Title?

During the process of buying real estate, you'll often hear a few common terms used. Many people think that deeds and titles are the same, but they are actually two different legal concepts. When you are the owner of an entire property, you will have the title and the deed. However, a deed is separate and distinct from a title. If you aren't sure what you're using, mixing up the deed and the title can cause a problem.

When you own the right to something, the legal word for this ownership is the title. In real estate, having the title refers to owning the property. When you own a property, you have the legal right to use that property as you see fit. You could own a partial interest or the full interest in the property. Whether it's a partial or full interest, having the title gives you the right to access and modify the land if you wish to do so.

The title also allows you to transfer a portion of the interest or the full interest that you own to someone else. The law will not allow you to transfer any more of a property than you own. A deed is a legal document that allows the title to be transferred from one person to another person. The Statute of Frauds requires all deeds to be written.

This written document must be signed and delivered. The grantor is the owner of the property and grants the ownership to another individual, called the grantee. This property could include tenements, land, or hereditaments. Under common law, the deed is kept under seal and contains a contract or covenant delivered by one individual to the other. A deed must be written because an oral contract is difficult to prove and enforce in a legal setting. Therefore, an oral contract is not considered a deed.

The written version of the deed must identify:

  • The owner or seller (referred to as the grantor)
  • The buyer (referred to as the grantee)

The grantor will sign the deed in the presence of a notary, who seals it per the legal requirement. This deed may also be called the vehicle for transferring property interest. You can transfer less of the title than you own.

In order for the deed to be legally binding in most states, it must be recorded in the assessor's office or courthouse. However, even if you fail to file the document, the transfer of title process will not change. Instead, the deed is not considered to be perfected. When a deed is imperfect, this doesn't imply an issue with the title. An imperfect deed only creates a problem with how the grantor or the grantee handled the paperwork for the deed.

Transfer of Land

When transferring land between individuals, this process can only be handled in the manner that is legally prescribed. A written deed has been the method used to transfer ownership of property for many years. Another way to describe a deed is a conveyance instrument.

When Spanish laws were in effect in the early days of the Western United States, written deeds were not required to transfer land ownership. Instead, those selling or purchasing property could use verbal grants, which were sufficient for the transactions as long as the grant also included the physical possession transfer. Since these laws were in effect in the early days of what is now Texas, some U.S. courts within the state will recognize verbal land grants.

A written deed must include a reasonably certain description of the property or land being transferred. When conveying property to another owner, this section must include certain legal terms, but they don't need to get too technical. The person granting the property must be clearly identified, but the name of the grantor doesn't have to be included.

Laws in certain states require the deed to include the grantor's residence, including:

  • Town
  • City
  • County
  • State

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