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Could a Quitclaim Deed Help You Divide Your Property in Divorce?

A quitclaim deed is a fairly simple document that allows someone with a legal interest in a piece of property to simply sign it over to someone else without selling it to them. It doesn't offer any guarantee, like a traditional deed that's gone through a title company, that the property is without liens or other issues.

They're often used in divorces when one spouse wants to surrender the house or condo (and the associated upkeep and bills) to the other.

Before you decide to use one because of its simplicity, however, consider the following:

1. Once filed at the county courthouse, a quitclaim terminates all your rights to the property. In the case of something like a condo or developed community, you also lose any rights that came with property ownership -- like the right to use the private gym or dock available for residents. You may not want to be in a hurry to give up those privileges until you've found something comparable for yourself.

2. It doesn't relieve you of any financial burden associated with the property. In other words, you may forget all about the house and the mortgage payment when you sign that quitclaim deed, but the bank won't forget about you. If your ex-spouse falls behind on the mortgage or fails to keep a promise to refinance the place entirely out of your name, the lender holding your mortgage can still come after you for payment. That could be a nasty shock several years down the line.

3. There may be tax implications that go along with the quitclaim. If the equity you have in the property is greater than the Internal Revenue Service's current cap on a tax-free gift, the new owner will owe taxes on the difference between the cap and the actual equity. If your spouse isn't aware of it, you may end up fighting over who pays the bill -- especially if your ex-spouse feels tricked.

Complex property divisions can be difficult to do yourself. Consider talking to an attorney right away, before you start exchanging property.