Thursday, 09 November 2023 14:14

Deeds for Real Property Transfers in New York - A Q&A for these important legal documents

Deeds for Real Property Transfers in New York  - A Q&A for these important legal documents

Everyone who has ever owned real estate has had a deed.  They are undoubtedly one of the most common legal documents that lawyers draft.  But what do you really know about deeds?  What are the different types of deeds and why are the differences important?  Here’s a set of questions and answers that can act as a primer on real estate deeds.  In this discussion, I will use the term “grantor” to refer to the person giving the deed and the term “grantee” to refer to the person receiving the deed.  In a basic real estate closing context, the seller would be the grantor and the buyer would be the grantee.

What are the most common types of deeds?

The most common types of deeds are warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, bargain and sale deeds, executor deeds, trustee deeds, life estate deeds, referee deeds, and tax foreclosure deeds.

What is a warranty deed?

A warranty deed is the most common deed for real estate transfers in Upstate New York.  With a warranty deed, the grantor is promising that they own the property and there are no title issues relating to property.  If title issues later arise after the closing, the grantee would potentially have a legal right to compel the grantor to resolve those issues.

What is a quitclaim deed?

In a quitclaim deed, the grantor conveys whatever rights, if any, they have in the property to the grantee.  Unlike a warranty deed, the grantor is not promising that they own the property and the grantor is not promising there are no title issues regarding the property.

What is a bargain and sale deed?

Bargain and sale deeds are more common downstate in real estate transfers.  The bargain and sale deed is better than a quitclaim deed but not as good as a warranty deed.  In a bargain and sale deed, the grantor is promising that they own the property and that they themselves have not done anything to impair the title to the property.  They are not promising (as in a warranty deed) that there are no title issues with the property, in general.

What is an executor’s deed?

If someone dies and their Will is submitted to probate, then an executor of their estate is appointed.  If the decedent owned property in their name at the time of their death, then that real estate is now owned by their estate.  If someone later buys that property from the estate, the executor signs an executor’s deed to convey the property.  It is important to note that just because you are named as an executor in someone’s Will, you may not sign an executor’s deed.  You need to have the decedent’s Will probated and receive your appointment from the Surrogates Court before you have the authority to sign an executor’s deed.

What is a trustee’s deed?

A trustee’s deed is signed when a trust owns the real estate.  There are several kinds of trusts.  Some trusts are created during the lifetime of a grantor and some trusts are created after the grantor’s death.  It is important to review the trust agreement to ensure that the person signing the deed is named as trustee and authorized by the trust provisions to sell the property.  If the trust was created in the grantor’s Will, it is important to make sure the Will was probated and the Surrogates Court appointed the named trustee.

What is a life estate deed?

I am using the shorthand “life estate deed” to describe the type of deed where the property is conveyed by the grantor to a grantee, but a life estate is retained by the grantor.  This is common when a parent wants to deed their property to their children but wants to maintain the right to live in their house until they die, which is accomplished by the reserved life estate right.  Upon the death of the grantor, the grantee then has title to the property free of the grantor’s interest.  In that case, no action is required in Surrogates Court to complete the transfer to the grantee.

What is a referee’s deed?

A referee’s deed is used when a property has been foreclosed on by a mortgage holder.  In those cases, the court handling the foreclosure appoints a referee to handle the sale.  The referee usually holds a sale at public auction and the highest bidder wins the opportunity to purchase the property.  The buyer typically has to put a small deposit down on the date of the auction and then pay the balance of the purchase price in a certain number of days.

What is a tax foreclosure deed?

If a property owner does not pay their property taxes, the local municipality or county has the ability to foreclose their tax lien on the property and take title to it.  This is usually done against all the delinquent properties in the municipality or county at the same time, through a legal tax foreclosure proceeding.  A public tax foreclosure auction is later held, where all the delinquent properties are sold to the highest bidder.  A government official who is authorized to sign the tax foreclosure deeds will later sign the deeds to the winning bidders.

The deeds listed above are not an exhaustive list of real property deeds in New York, but they are the most common.  As you can see, there are a number of important differences with each deed, and a buyer has to be careful to understand exactly what they are getting when they purchase real property.  In order to protect your interests, it is important to secure the services of an experienced attorney and title company to assist you when you make a real estate purchase.

Matthew J. Dorsey, Esq. is a Shareholder with O’Connell and Aronowitz, 1 Court St, Saratoga Springs. Over his 26 years of practice, he has focused in the areas of elder law, estate planning, and estate administration. Mr. Dorsey can be reached at 518-584-5205, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and

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