Deeds for transferring real estate are routinely made without the assistance of an attorney. Although each state’s laws may differ regarding deed requirements, preprinted deed forms typically are available from the local government office responsible for recording deeds or a local store that sells legal stationary. The information required to complete the deed, such as property legal description or parcel number, is available publicly. Also, the government recording office provides the basic information needed to comply with its deed recording requirements.
Obtain a preprinted form for the type of deed you want to make from your local government recording office. For example, a preprinted quitclaim deed is available from the recorder’s office in Greenlee County, Arizona, and a grant deed from the recorder’s office in Ventura County, California. If the forms are not available from your local recorder’s office, a local real estate agent should have information on how to obtain such forms.
Insert the name and address of the person who should receive the original deed after it is recorded. The space for this information typically is located in the upper left corner of the form near printed words such as "Recording requested by" or "When recorded, mail to."
Insert the assessor's parcel number, or APN, for the property covered by the deed, if necessary, where indicated on the form. A property's APN can be found on a prior year's property tax bill or previously recorded deed. Your local government recording office may make this information available online, as San Francisco County, California, does.
Determine the recording transfer tax, if necessary, and insert the information in the deed where indicated. In some states, such as California, a deed may be rejected for recording if the tax is not paid when attempting to record the deed. Your local government recorder's office makes the information available to determine the tax. For example, the website of the San Francisco County Assessor-Recorder has this information available on its website.
Insert the names of the parties to the transaction where indicated in the form. For example, in a quitclaim deed, insert the person's name who is quitclaiming the property after the preprinted phrase: “Know all men by these presents: That I (we) …” Insert the person's name who is receiving the quitclaim after the preprinted phrase "…hereby remise, release and quitclaim to ..." Insert the name of the county and state as indicated on the form.
Obtain the legal description of the property covered by the deed and insert it where indicated on the form. You should use a prior recorded deed for this information. Check the description to ensure it is accurate because an invalid legal description may make the deed ineffective.
Some states require additional forms to be prepared and submitted along with a deed. California requires a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report to accompany the deed.
Many deeds are exempt from paying a documentary tax. Check with your local government recording office before filing the deed so that you can insert the proper exemption information on the deed.