Property Transfers and Quitclaim Deed in Washington state

What is the process to transfer property, and do I really need a quitclaim deed?

Transferring property from one party to another can be a complicated process. Depending on the situation, you may need to use a quitclaim deed to ensure the transfer is legally recognized.

Understanding the steps and legal requirements can help you avoid common pitfalls and ensure a smooth transfer. One question often arises in property transfers is whether a quitclaim deed is necessary.

In this article, we will discuss what a quitclaim deed is and when it is necessary for transferring property. We’ll also explore other methods of transferring property and how they might affect your legal rights. By understanding these concepts, you can ensure that your property transfers are done correctly and safely.

Understanding the Basics of Property Transfer

Property transfer occurs when one person or a business entity conveys ownership of a piece of property to another. The most common way to do this is through a deed, such as a quitclaim deed.

A quitclaim deed is a document that transfers whatever interest the grantor has in the property to the recipient. It does not guarantee any promise regarding the quality of the title being transferred and does not contain warranties about what is being conveyed.

Real Property Transfer in the Context of Divorce

Divorce involves the division of property. Very often this involves the division of a home. Below is an example of what language in a separation contract might look like that awards a home to one spouse. In this case, Linda is keeping the home and Charles will quit claim his interest to her.

Real Estate Awarded. The parties have a community interest in real property located at 1234 Drury Lane SE Seattle, WA 98107. Effective upon execution of this agreement, said property is hereby awarded to Linda. Effective upon execution of this agreement, Linda shall assume and pay all taxes, utilities, insurance, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, maintenance, repair and other obligations on said property and hold Charles harmless thereon. Ownership of any reserve or escrow accounts, which apply to the property or its mortgage, insurance or taxes, shall be transferred together with and as part of the value of the property. The parties shall cooperate in executing escrow instructions or other documentation as needed to accomplish the provisions of this paragraph. The parties shall fully and promptly cooperate in providing each other with documentation of the tax basis in the property. Upon entry of the decree, Charles shall, by appropriate quitclaim deed, convey all right, title and interest in and to the aforesaid real property to Linda.

As shown in the above clause, when real property is being divided in a Washington divorce it’s best practice to execute a quit claim deed once an agreement is reached to clearly transfer a spouse’s interests in the home. Some attorneys even recommend using a quit claim deed, even if one of the spouses has never been on the title. This is just for peace of mind to ensure that the property transfer is free and clear.

In order to reach the point where you’ve decided that a quit claim deed is necessary, you’ll need to determine what a fair division of assets would be. It is crucial to approach the situation with careful planning, open communication, and the assistance of legal professionals.

How You Can Ensure a Smooth and Successful Property Division

Here are some specific guidelines for navigating property division in divorce.

Defining Property Ownership

Start by identifying all jointly owned or individually owned properties. Classify assets as marital or separate property based on Washington laws and the date they were acquired. Understanding the nature and extent of these assets will play a pivotal role in determining the most appropriate approach for dividing them.

Attorney Consultation

It’s imperative to seek guidance from a knowledgeable collaborative divorce attorney who understands property division. They will adeptly navigate you through the legal process, present your rights and obligations, and provide tailored strategic advice for your specific circumstances. In addition, they can prepare you to talk through property division in a manner designed to reduce tension and reach a resolution.

Comprehensive Inventory

Compile a meticulous inventory of all assets to be divided, including estimated value, condition, and pertinent documentation. This thorough inventory will serve as a point of reference during negotiations, ensuring no asset goes unnoticed.

Accurate Property Valuation

When it comes to the home and any other piece of property that has an unclear value the simplest thing to do is to agree on a value. Some people take the average of what they see on Zillow and Redfin. Others requests a comparative market analysis from a real estate agent they’ve worked with.

That said, if you’re unable to agree on a number securing professional property appraisals to ascertain the precise value of all assets, encompassing real estate, vehicles, investments, businesses, and personal belongings will minimize conflict. Relying on a third party to value property for you will reduce the chance of conflict and help to streamline the property division process. In addition, accurate valuations guarantee an equitable distribution of assets while minimizing potential disputes in the future.

Consider Tax Ramifications

You need to consider the potential tax implications associated with property transfers. Seek guidance from a tax professional to gain a comprehensive insight into possible tax burdens tied to specific asset transfers. This informed approach will help you make well-founded decisions, avoiding unforeseen tax obligations. Typically assets that are being divided pursuant to a divorce will not be taxed, this includes the home. However, the transfers will need to be done correctly in order to shield you from potential tax liability.

Collaborative Negotiation

When feasible, pursue a collaborative divorce process, where both parties strive for mutual agreement in the presence of their respective legal representatives and other professionals. This cooperative method fosters open communication, effective problem-solving, and a more amicable property division process.

Explore Mediation or Arbitration

If disagreements arise during property division, consider mediation or arbitration as alternative methods for resolving disputes. Engaging a neutral mediator or arbitrator will aid in facilitating negotiations, guiding both parties toward a mutually acceptable resolution.

Detailed Settlement Agreement

Once an agreement is reached, meticulously document it in a comprehensive settlement agreement. This legally binding document should outline the division of property, provide specific details regarding each asset, delegate responsibilities for ongoing expenses, and address any required transfers of ownership or title.

Complete Transfer Documentation

Adhere to all legal procedures and requirements when effectuating the transfer of asset ownership. This may entail updating property titles, executing deeds, transferring financial accounts, and notifying pertinent institutions about the relevant changes.

When Is It Necessary to Use a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed should be used if you want to transfer your rights in real estate quickly but with no promises about the quality of the title or legal restrictions on how it may be used.

For example, if you are selling or transferring a property to a family member, such as a parent or sibling, a quitclaim deed may be the simplest way to accomplish the transfer. It’s also an ideal option when there is no active mortgage on the property, and you don’t need any additional protections against liabilities associated with the transfer.

In Washington divorce and legal separation, a quit claim deed is the standard instrument used to transfer real property ownership. The quit claim deed is a relatively short, but technical document that will list the grantor, person passing on their interest, grantee, person receiving the interest as well as a detailed description of the property.

Below is a sample of what the conveyance language could look like along with a sample legal description. BE MINDFUL, the below language is simply an example to make it easier to understand the components of the document, not a clause that should be used without input from a legal professional.

The GRANTOR, Jane Doe, for and in consideration of division of property in a divorce, case number XXX, conveys and quit claims to John Doe, as his separate property, her interest in the following described real estate, situated in the County of King, State of Washington, together with all after acquired title of the grantor(s) therein:


Typically, a clause and legal description are on the first page of a quit claim deed. The legal description you see above can be found from reviewing prior deeds. It’s likely that your county stores these documents electronically online and they are free to view. For example, you can access prior deeds at the King County Recorder’s Office, In addition, you can look up the parcel number to your property at your county’s parcel viewer website. As an example, here is a link to the King County online parcel viewer

Aside from the conveyance language and legal description of the property it is common to list the parcel number of the property, the address and any additional easements, covenants, conditions or restrictions on the property. Each county has its own specific formatting requirements, so it’s key that you research exactly what is necessary for your particular county, so your document will be accepted by the county recorder. A rejected quit claim deed can be a hassle to deal with as quit claim deeds need to be notarized and resubmission can be time consuming and expensive.

When Is a Quitclaim Deed Unnecessary?

While quitclaim deeds are commonly utilized in various real estate transactions, there are situations where they may not be necessary or appropriate. Understanding when a quitclaim deed is unnecessary can help streamline property transfers and avoid unnecessary complications.

Here are some scenarios where a quitclaim deed may not be required:

Joint Tenancy or Tenancy by the Entirety

When multiple individuals hold property together as joint tenants or tenants by the entirety, the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) upon the death of one owner. In such cases, a quitclaim deed is not required as the ownership rights are transferred through the operation of law.

Spousal Transfers

Outside of Washington, some jurisdictions exempt transfers of property between spouses during a marriage or as part of a divorce settlement from the need for a quitclaim deed. Instead, the legal documentation for transferring ownership rights can be accomplished through the divorce decree or marital settlement agreement.

Intra-Family Transfers

When transferring property between close family members, such as parents, children, or siblings, a quitclaim deed may not always be mandatory. Numerous jurisdictions provide simpler alternatives for transfers between family members, including gift deeds or affidavits of heirship.

Title Insurance

In certain situations, obtaining title insurance policies can facilitate property ownership transfer. This is particularly common when the property is being sold, and the purchaser’s title insurance policy offers protection against any potential defects in the title.

Estate Planning Strategies

The transfer of property as part of estate planning may not always necessitate a quitclaim deed. Instead, estate planning tools such as wills, trusts, or beneficiary designations can be utilized to ensure the intended transfer of property rights upon the owner’s death.

Mortgage Refinancing

A quitclaim deed is generally not required during mortgage refinancing since the property ownership remains unchanged. That said, if married, many lenders require a spouse be added by quit claim deed to the property even if they were not the original purchaser of the real estate.

Other Methods of Property Transfer

While quitclaim deeds are commonly used for property transfers, there are alternative methods that can be employed when a quitclaim deed is not necessary or not the most suitable option. Here are some alternative ways of property transfer that do not require a quitclaim deed:

Warranty Deeds

A warranty deed is a common method of transferring property that provides a guarantee, or warranty, that the seller holds clear and marketable title to the property. Unlike a quitclaim deed, a warranty deed assures the buyer that there are no undisclosed encumbrances or claims against the property.

Grant Deeds

A grant deed guarantees that the seller holds the property title and has not transferred it to anyone else. While a grant deed does not provide as extensive warranties as a warranty deed, it still gives the buyer some assurance regarding the seller’s ownership interest.

Living Trusts

By placing the property within a trust and appointing a trustee, the property owner entrusts the management to the designated trustee to benefit the beneficiaries. This transfer involves re-titling the property under the trust’s name instead of the conventional quitclaim deed method.

Hire Truce Law for Stress-Free Property Transfers

Hiring a collaborative divorce attorney with extensive knowledge of property transfers can provide you with invaluable support. At Truce Law, we understand the intricacies of property division laws and can help you navigate the process with confidence. We will assess your situation, identify your entitlement, and develop a strategic plan.

For more information on divorce and real estate follow this link to learn more about how real property is classified (separate or community), refinancing issues in divorce, selling a home, renting a home you own during divorce and buying your partner’s equity out.

If you’d like to talk further contact us today!

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