If there is real property (a house, condo, townhome) that is part of a divorce whereas one of the parties is awarded the asset, the person that is now being ordered by the court to relinquish their ownership rights to their former spouse must sign their name to a new deed transferring their ownership and all rights back to their former spouse. An official document from the court usually is required to be filed along with a new deed to validate the transfer when completed.
In some instances a former spouse may refuse to sign their name to the deed removing them from ownership. If this is the case, if you have a court order stating you are the owner of the property and they are to remove their name from the deed, you can head back into court and seek assistance from the court to mandate your former spouse sign the deed. Failure to do so may even lead to contempt of court and jail time for those refusing to adhere to court orders.
Deed Types to consider using
The most common deed that people think of is a quitclaim deed. This deed is widely used to be a quick transfer of ownership or to add someone as a new co-owner of the property. Typically quitclaim deeds do not carry any special provisions and just deal with transferring ownership rights. Other deeds like warranty deeds do have provisions that convey certain rights or privileges that a quitclaim deed will not have. Some states will record a quitclaim deed but it will not be recognized later on by a title company as a valid transfer since it was not a warranty deed. It is important when looking to add someone to your property or deed that the correct deed is used to ensure no rights are lost in the process.
State & County Forms
Most states have some kind of form they require to be filed with a deed. In California, this form is called a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report or (PCOR). You can file your deed with the recorder’s office without one for an additional fee of usually $20 but know that they will still mail one back to you to complete. It is better to complete that form with the deed at time of recording to reduce any rejections or delays. Other states and counties have forms as well. San Francisco County, CA has it’s own county forms in addition to the state PCOR form for certain transactions.
Signing and Recording your deed
All deeds must be signed by all current owners that are transferring ownership in front of a Notary Public to be valid. Once the notary witnesses all owner’s signatures, the deed can then be submitted to the county recorder for review and recording.
Be careful to make sure that by adding someone to your deed or property that you are aware of any transfer taxes that can be assessed for the transfer you are doing. Most states like California have a list of exemptions you can use to avoid this tax such as adding a relative to your deed. In a case like this you would need to list the exemption number and description on the deed itself as well as the PCOR form. Transfer rates change from time to time as well. It is a good idea to go to the county recorder’s website to obtain the current rates and understand the potential taxes of adding someone to the deed.
California, specifically properties located in Los Angeles County such as Santa Monica also assess a city transfer tax fee based upon any taxes that are assessed by the county recorder.
Before preparing a deed…
It is always a good practice to consult with a licensed attorney for the state where your property is located and being transferred in before adding anyone to your deed. Only an attorney can offer legal advice on vesting options such as joint tenancy or community property along with other legal advice related to the transfer you are seeking.