How to Quitclaim a Jointly Owned Property in Texas
By Beverly Bird
Quitclaim deeds don’t receive a lot of respect in Texas. Texas is a community property state and this compounds the limitations of such deeds. Under community property law, both spouses equally own everything acquired during the marriage. This means that only half the property can be conveyed by deed, unless both spouses sign it.
Jointly-Owned Community Property
When a married individual purchases property in Texas, his spouse is entitled to a half-interest if they divorce, even if he buys the property with his own income. He can only bequeath half of it in his will, because the other half belongs to his spouse. If he dies intestate, without a will, his spouse retains her one-half share -- the court will distribute the other half to the decedent's heirs, if any. If he had no children by another marriage or relationship, his surviving spouse receives his 50 percent. Otherwise, his half passes to his children. However, joint deeds with specific rights of survivorship override probate and intestacy laws in Texas. When such a deed exists, the property passes automatically to the surviving spouse. In this case, she can quitclaim her 100-percent interest to anyone she likes, simply by signing a quitclaim deed and transferring the property. However, she must receive full ownership of the property first.
In many respects, quitclaim deeds are empty promises. They convey one individual’s interest in a property to someone else. They don’t convey the property itself, but only ownership rights. They don't even guarantee the grantor has any interest to convey. Theoretically, an individual can quitclaim his interest in his neighbor's home, without having any ownership stake in that property. In this case, he quitclaims nothing, and in Texas, this is perfectly legal. However, when he does have an interest in the property, a quitclaim deed transfers that interest to the deed's grantee, the person receiving it. In a community property state such as Texas, the grantee in the deed would co-own the property with the grantor’s spouse. He would receive 50 percent of the property, the grantor's share.
Use in Divorce
In a divorce situation, when property is being transferred between spouses, a quitclaim deed can be appropriate. If one spouse is signing off on her community property interest in a divorce settlement, for example, if she elects to take other assets of equal value instead, she can convey her share of the property to her spouse with such a deed. He would then have a 100-percent interest in the property, which he can quitclaim to another individual.
Conveyance by Both Owners
The only effective way to quitclaim jointly owned property in Texas is for both spouses to sign the deed. This might be the case if they wanted to liquidate the property, so each could take their interest in cash. However, if they sold the property, lenders and title companies usually require a different sort of deed. Typically, such transactions are conveyed with deeds that guarantee the owners have a 100-percent interest in the property to give.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.