The Quick and the Deed

There is a type of deed called a “quit claim deed,” the name of which comes from an archaic verb that actually says the person signing the deed “quitclaims” the title to the other person. Literally, it means “I will not make any claim to the title after I record this deed.”

Because the word comes from the same century as “vouchsafe” and “forsooth,” many of our clients mistakenly call it a “quick claim deed.” That is pretty funny since there is nothing particularly “quick” about the deed. It takes about the same time to draft as the other common deed, the “warranty deed,” which promises that good title is being conveyed. A quitclaim deed makes no such promise. Instead, the person signing it is saying, “I’m not promising I own any interest in this land, but whatever I may own, I give to you.”

We need a new name for this deed, one that is neither speedy nor a quitter. How about a “Good luck with this title deed”? After all, with no guaranty of good title, that would put the new owner on notice. Too long? Then let’s go with “Whatever Deed,” since in it the signer is saying “whatever I own, it’s yours.”

Of course, the name is not going to change, any more than the language in deeds about being “lawfully seized of the land in fee simple” is going to be changed to “I own the complete title.” Making legal documents understandable to non-lawyers is pretty far down the list of priorities of the legal profession’s leadership. But we can always dream.