Frequently Asked Questions – Deeds
Topics on this page
- What Is a Deed?
- What’s the difference between a deed and a title?
- What’s the difference between a general warranty deed, special warranty deed, and quit claim deed?
- Where can I find a deed form?
- I want my children to inherit my property. Can I just add them to my deed now?
- My name has changed. Do I have to update my deed?
- My husband and I owned our house together as joint tenants. He has passed away. Do I need to update the deed so that it shows my name only?
- When my grandmother died, my mother inherited her house, but did not update the deed. My mother has just passed away. What do I do now?
- If the deed says one thing and the will says another, which one trumps?
- Do transfer on death deeds work in Maryland?
- I want to create a trust. Can I deed my house to my trust?
- Is a "deed of trust" the same thing as a deed?
1. What Is a Deed?
A deed is a written and signed legal document that transfers property ownership.
Maryland law requires all deeds to include the names of the grantor (the seller) and grantee (the buyer), a description of the property, and the interest that you intend to convey.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 4-101
All deeds must be recorded with the Department of Land Records in the county where the property is located.
2. What’s the difference between a deed and a title?
Title is legal ownership of a piece of property and a set of rights over that property. A deed is the legal document that gives you those rights.
When you have title of a property, you have the following rights:
- The right of possession – you are the legal owner of the property and have the right to be on the property
- The right of control – you can use the property however you want, as long as you are not doing anything illegal
- The right of exclusion – you have the authority to tell people to get off of your property and invite them onto your property
- The right of enjoyment – you have the right to live peacefully and not be bothered by others while on your property
- The right of disposition – you have the right to transfer ownership of the property
Remember, title is a concept and a deed is a physical document.
3. What’s the difference between a general warranty deed, special warranty deed, and quit claim deed?
General warranty deed
This type of deed warrants that the title has no defects from previous owners to the current owner. Title defects are anything that would inhibit the seller from transferring the property, such as a lien or mortgage. General warranty deeds provide grantees (buyers) with the most protection.
Special warranty deed
The grantor is warranting that the title is good only during the time the grantor owned the property. There are no assurances that the previous owner’s title was free of defects. This is the most commonly used type of deed in Maryland.
This type of deed does not provide any warranty of good title. The grantor is simply transferring whatever title he has, whether free of defects or not.
4. Where can I find a deed Form?
Maryland’s Department of Land Records does not provide a deed form. However, there are many samples available online. Also, check with your local law library. Be careful when selecting a sample. You want to make sure that the deed sample you use includes all Maryland requirements for valid deeds. Different states can have different types of deeds.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 4-101
You should work with an attorney to draft or review your deed to ensure you are conveying what you intend.
5. I want my children to inherit my property. Can I just add them to my deed now?
Yes, you can add your children to your deed during your lifetime. However, there are many implications of doing this.
Be aware that your children will have immediate ownership rights to the property as soon as you add their names to the deed, not only after you have died. This can be problematic if the child is ever sued. Any creditors of the child can now go after the child’s ownership interest in the property to satisfy a claim. For example, the creditor could put a lien on or seize the property.
Your children will probably have to pay capital gains tax if they decide to sell the property. When you add a child to your deed, your child inherits your basis in the property (i.e. the amount you originally paid for the property). Then, if the property is sold, your child will pay capital gains tax on the difference between the basis and the sale price.
Before adding your children to your deed, you should speak to an attorney to understand the impacts.
6. My name has changed. Do I have to update my deed?
You are not required to update your deed to reflect your name change. However, if you decide to sell or refinance the property, you will need to show supporting documentation of the name change, such as through a marriage certificate. Having your new name consistently recorded on all of your legal documents will make life easier and not hold up the sale or refinance process.
If you decide to change the name on your deed, you need to file a new deed.
7. My husband and I owned our house together as joint tenants. He has passed away. Do I need to update the deed so that it shows my name only?
You are not required to update the deed to reflect your husband’s death; however, it may be a good idea to do so. Doing so may be helpful if you wish to sell the home or refinance the home.
8. When my grandmother died, my mother inherited her house, but did not update the deed. My mother has just passed away. What do I do now?
You should update the deed to reflect the current owner since the property has gone through multiple owners. You will need to show proof of ownership through wills and death certificates in order to update the deed. If neither the grandmother nor mother had a will, then look to the laws of intestacy to determine who rightfully owns the house. See Maryland Intestacy Law.
9. If the deed says one thing and the will says another, which one trumps?
Generally, the deed trumps the will. Only property titled solely in the name of the decedent is governed by the will. So if the property is titled only in the decedent’s name then you look to the will to determine who rightfully owns the property.
10. Do transfer on death deeds work in Maryland?
No, Maryland does not recognize transfer on death deeds. These types of deeds allow for property to transfer to a named recipient as soon as the property owner dies. The purpose of transfer on death deeds is to avoid probate.
11. I want to create a trust. Can I deed my house to my trust?
Yes, you need to create and file a new deed showing the transfer of ownership from you to your trust. This is an estate planning tool used to avoid probate.
12. Is a “deed of trust” the same thing as a deed?
No. There are similarities between a “deed” and a “deed of trust.” Both a “deed” and “deed of trust” are written and signed legal documents. Both documents are recorded with your county’s Land Records. However, they do totally different things. A deed transfers property ownership. A deed of trust is an agreement where the borrower is using the property to secure a loan.
A deed of trust is very similar to a mortgage, but there are key differences between a deed of trust and a mortgage. For example, mortgages generally have two parties: the borrower and the lender. A deed of trust has three parties: the borrower, the lender, and the trustee. The trustee is a third party whose main role is to handle the foreclosure process. Another important difference between a mortgage and deed of trust is the way the foreclosure process is handled (e.g., type of foreclosure, judicial versus nonjudicial; length of the process, etc.). If you don’t know if you have a mortgage or a deed of trust, review your documents or talk to an attorney.