Real estate in Massachusetts is conveyed by a written document known as a deed. The deed must be signed by the seller or owner of the property, who is referred to in the deed as the grantor. The buyer, or person acquiring the real estate, is known as the grantee. The grantor transfers their right of ownership using one of three types of deeds. Each type of deed provides a different level of promises or covenants to the grantee. These promises were once meant to offer protection and guarantees against flaws in the grantors chain (or right) of ownership of the real estate. Grantors typically make the same promises or covenants to their buyer as they received from their seller when the real estate was granted to them.
The three types of deeds in Massachusetts are:
Warranty Deeds. A warranty deed provided the most assurances to the grantee, it includes four basic promises to the grantee. The first promise is that the seller of the real estate owns the real estate in fee simple, and that the grantor has absolute ownership of the property. The second promise is that the property is free from any encumbrances, liens or defects which would limit the grantees interest in the real estate, with exception to limits specifically stated in the deed. Third, the warranty deed guarantees that the grantor has the legal right to sell or transfer the property to grantee. Fourth the grantor promises to defend against any legal claims of ownership against the grantee that arose during the grantor’s ownership or prior to the grantor’s ownership. (See M.G.L. Chapter 183, Section 10 and 16.)
Quitclaim Deeds. The assurances of a quitclaim deed are more limited. The first promise is similar to the second guarantee of the warranty deed, which states that the grantor has not caused any encumbrances on the property other than those specifically listed in the deed. Unlike a warranty deed, however, the quitclaim only covers encumbrances made by the grantor and does not cover any preexisting encumbrances, restrictions or defects.. In addition to the first assurance, the quitclaim deed guarantees that the grantor will defend against any legal claims regarding problems with the title that arose during the grantor’s ownership period but not prior to the grantor’s ownership. Essentially a quitclaim provides the same protections as a warranty deed except it limits how far back in time the grantor is liable for any problems resulting from the title. (See M.G.L. Chapter 183, Section 11 and 17.)
Release Deeds. A release deed offers the least amount of protection to a grantee. It does not guarantee anything and serves only to transfer a title with whatever right the grantor may have to the property. With a release deed the grantor does not make any assurances o promises that the title is valid. A “Fiduciary Deed” is a Release Deed and is generally used by a grantor who is an Executor or Administrator of an estate to convey the decedent’s property. It is also used by a Trustee of a Testamentary Trust, a Guardian, or Conservator. The Fiduciary must have power to convey title either through a will or trust document.
If you have specific questions about the conveyance of title or about deeds in Massachusetts please contact our office.