Common Types of Deeds in Florida

September 15, 2022by Brandon Banks

The first thing to understand about a deed is that it is an official record of ownership of property. This can be any type of property, but it is particularly important for real estate. After all, you can wear a watch or a ring, but a house and the land it sits on cannot be put in your pocket or packed into a suitcase. 

So how do you tell who owns a piece of property if the person isn’t sitting on the lawn ready to defend it? By looking at the deed. Whomever’s name is on the most current and unassailable deed to that property is the owner of that property. 

This is why it is important that the deed to your property be properly recorded with the County Clerk or other official office — so the ownership is a matter of public record and no one can come back after the fact and claim the transfer of title never happened.

We call that having the title to that property — meaning you’re the owner and entitled to freely use that property (though sometimes there are restrictions on that use). The current owner, transferring title to the new owner, is called the grantor of the deed. The new owner, receiving the title, is the grantee. 

As such, whenever you want to sell or otherwise transfer real property to someone else, you need to sign a new deed that transfers title to the new owner. An attorney usually prepares the deed to make sure it passes muster to establish legal title. 

The above information applies to all deeds, but there are many different types of deeds recognized by the state of Florida. Let’s take a look at the different types of deeds — what they do, how they are different, and under what circumstances one might be used over another.

General Warranty Deed

A general warranty deed is the type of deed most commonly used to convey title of residential property in the state of Florida. By signing a general warranty deed, the grantor is making five specific guarantees to the new owner:

  • That the grantor is the current owner.
  • That the grantor has the right to transfer title to the property.
  • That there are no liens or encumbrances on the title that have not been disclosed.
  • The title is free of defects that will limit the new owner’s ability to use the property.
  • That the grantor agrees to defend the grantee against any competing claims to title.

Note that these guarantees are made for all time, not just the time frame under which the grantor owned the property. If a competing ownership claim emerges that dates back to before the grantor took possession of the property, the grantor is still on the hook for that last guarantee.

If all of these guarantees can be made, the property is considered to have “clean title.” If any of them can’t be guaranteed, there is said to be a “cloud” or “defect” on the title, and a quiet title action may be required for the sale or transfer to legally close. 

A general warranty deed conveys fee simple title — that is, unencumbered rights of the grantee to enter, use, and dispose of the property as (s)he sees fit.

What if a competing owner does come out of the woodworks after closing, with a deed that must be honored? This is why most real estate transactions require title insurance, an insurance policy that helps all parties to the transaction recoup any losses.

Statutory Warranty Deed

A statutory warranty deed is a more recent creation by Florida statute. It conveys fee simple title and makes the same five guarantees as a general warranty deed. The difference — it does so in a shorter format. A statutory warranty deed is just as binding as a general warranty deed and can be used interchangeably with it if the grantor has clean title to transfer.

Special Warranty Deed

A special warranty deed makes the same five guarantees as the general warranty deed and the statutory warranty deed. It also conveys fee simple title like the other deeds.

So what’s the difference? A special warranty deed only makes the five guarantees for the time that the grantor owned the land. If there is a competing claim or encumbrance that predates the grantor’s period of ownership, the grantor is held harmless and faultless for that claim and not required to defend the grantor.

When would a seller accept this? Special warranty deeds are widely used to close transactions of commercial property, which have much more complicated deeds and a tradition of caveat emptor rule — that is, “let the buyer beware.”

Fee Simple Deed

A fee simple deed may sound redundant. After all, all three of the deeds we have previously described convey fee simple ownership. So what’s the difference between them and this type of deed?

A fee simple deed conveys fee simple title only. It makes none of the five guarantees found within the warranty deeds. Yes, the grantee is technically the owner of record, but the grantee has much less protection in the event of a competing claimant. 

Quit Claim Deed

A quit claim deed actually does not convey title or register ownership. It is actually the opposite — the grantor relinquishes any title or rights (s)he may have to the property. 

This is usually done to clear any clouds or defects from the title — identifying potential rival claimants and asking them to sign away any of their potential rights, rather than fighting it out in court. The grantor of the quit claim deed may or may not be compensated in exchange for relinquishing their rights. 

Important to note — the grantor of a quit claim deed is making none of the guarantees found in a warranty deed. (S)he is only agreeing to make no further claim of his/her own.

Life Estate Deed

A life estate deed may resemble a general warranty, special warranty, or fee simple deed, but with one major difference — the deed does not convey fee simple title. Instead, it conveys a “life estate” — title to property that is contingent on the life of a specified person. 

When the specified person dies, fee simple ownership interest transfers to another person, known as the “remainderman” and possessing “remainder interest.”

Life estate deeds are typically used in estate planning to help ensure smooth transfers of assets to heirs. 

Personal Representative's Deed

A personal representative deed may be used to transfer title that has fallen under the fiduciary responsibility of a third party who does not own the property. This “personal representative” may be a trustee, guardian, or other responsible party tasked with transferring the property. 

With a PR deed, the personal representative can legally sign over title to the grantee, despite the fact that the personal representative does not actually own the property.

Circumstances that may require a PR include transferring property to heirs or beneficiaries when the owner has died, is incapacitated, is a minor, or is ruled incompetant.

Establishing title, determining who has an ownership interest in a piece of property can be tricky. Because real estate is so valuable, with such strict legal controls, the average person can’t just draw up a deed that will hold up in court. You have to know which type of deed to use, and how to draft it so that it is enforceable. 

That is why in most residential real estate transactions a title company is used to facilitate the process. They verify the current title owner, draw up the deed to transfer the ownership interest to a new owner and make sure the process is properly completed; including recording the transaction with the appropriate local government agencies.

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