For many people, terms like “deeds” or “property” bring to mind games of Monopoly around a table with friends or family. While the game of Monopoly does give some insight into the world of property deeds, understanding property deeds go far beyond their use in a children’s board game. Indeed, property deeds have very real applications in the world of commerce, law, and personal finance. Deeds and property transfer are intimately connected, as property deeds are a key component of transferring ownership of property from one person to another.

What are Deeds in South Carolina?

Simply put, a deed is a written legal document that is used to represent the ownership of a piece of property. This deed clearly defines, in writing, who the new owner of the property is (the grantee) and who the old owner of the property was (the grantor). While a deed can exist officially or privately, the majority of property deeds are private, executed without the presence of a court or judge. In order to have a legally sound deed, it must contain the following essential qualities:

  • The grantor needs to be able to legally transfer ownership of the property to the grantee.
  • Both the grantor and the grantee must be clearly identified
  • The property must be clearly identifiable and described
  • The proper legal language needs to be used (often called “words of conveyance”)
  • Both parties must sign the deed, which must be accepted by the grantee
  • The deed must exist in writing; it cannot be a verbal contract

Warranty deeds are one type of deed used in the transfer of property. A warranty deed explicitly states that the owner has sole ownership of the property and there are no pre-existing other liens for said property. Unlike quitclaim deeds (also known as non-warranty deeds), warranty deeds offer greater legal protection to the grantee. Real estate offices will be able to assist you in obtaining a warranty deed, should you seek out a deed that offers great protection as a buyer, often including title insurance.

What is a Title in South Carolina?

While a deed proves that a property has transferred, a title proves ownership and occupancy of the property itself. Thus, both documents are important when it comes to transferring ownership of a property. This is because a title gives the titleholder the right to place a mortgage on the property, occupy the property, use the property within legal bounds, and transfer the property again to a new grantee. When paired with a deed—the other “half” of the property transfer “whole”—a title offers the full picture of ownership, and, as a result, the full picture of a property transfer.

How Do You Initiate a Property Transfer in South Carolina?

A basic transfer, involving a bill of sale, is one of the most common ways to transfer property. In transfers of real estate, such a bill will often involve a witness or a notary. Another way to start the transfer of property is through gifting. This differs from basic sales in that money does not exchange hands between the grantee and the grantor. Even without a bill of sale, however, the gifting of something like real estate from one family member to another will still require a witness and notarization. Don’t forget that gifts above a certain monetary value must still be claimed on taxes, which are often paid by the grantor in the case of a gift. Wills are another way that property can be transferred from one party to another. Wills are used in the event of the owner’s death, and an estate planner is often involved in the execution of such property transfers. Particularly in cases where the grantor is recently deceased, it’s important to get legal advice from an attorney with experience in such transfers.

Tenants in Common vs Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship in South Carolina

You may be wondering what you do about property occupied by more than one person or owner. The legal concepts of “tenants in common” and “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” help to clarify ownership in such cases. If you are a tenant in common, you do not fully own the property. Rather, you own a share of it. You might own 60% of the home, while your husband owns the other 40%. This may be especially attractive for partners who have purchased a home together but are not yet married. Unlike tenants in common, joint tenants own equal pieces of the home or property. This is often the law in marriages, although some states have differing standards. The major difference between these two types of ownership involves what happens to the property when one owner dies. In an arrangement of joint tenants with rights of survivorship, upon the death of one owner, their ownership is transferred to the remaining owner. The only way that tenants in common get such a benefit is by declaring it in their will.

As deeds are official legal documents, it’s important to make sure that they are executed properly. If a deed is not created and used in an official capacity, it could jeopardize your ownership or transfer of a property. As such, it’s important to get someone experienced in real estate dealings, such as commercial real estate attorney, in order to safeguard the transfer of your property. Such legal counsel may also be important to consider since property transfer can trigger certain taxes.

If you’re looking to give or receive a home or land, reach out to us to consult about the deal. We’re happy to help you walk through the process officially, efficiently, and easily!