Have you ever taken a look at the deed to your home and wondered, “What does it mean and what does it do?” You have spent a large sum of money at the closing table and signed voluminous amounts of mortgage documents, only to walk away with a piece of paper that gets recorded in the Clerk’s office in the County where the property is located.  But this piece of paper is filled with more information than meets the eye.

At the top of the deed, just below the date of the conveyance, the “grantor” is named. The grantor is the seller, or the person(s) or entity conveying the property, also known as “the party of the first part.” Thereafter the “grantee” is named, that is the buyer who is known as “the party of the second part,” and now the new owner.

When more than one grantee is named, it is important to consider the manner in which they are named, because there are different ways to hold title in New York. Married couples, as a general rule, go into title as “husband and wife” or “tenants by the entirety.”  The deed would recite: John Brown and Mary Brown, as tenants by the entirety or John Brown and Mary Brown, as husband and wife. What this means is that if one spouse dies, the property is automatically owned one hundred percent by the surviving spouse. If the deed does not recite as “husband and wife” or as “tenants by the entirety,” title is still deemed to be held with survivorship rights if the couple is married, unless specifically stated otherwise.

If two (or more) individuals are named on a deed who are not married, and there is no language specifying the form of ownership, title is deemed to be held as “tenants in common.” In this form of ownership, there are no survivorship rights. If one person dies, their percentage of ownership interest passes to their heirs, not the surviving individual on the deed, unless that individual happens to be their heir. If the two individuals want survivorship rights like a married couple without being married, the deed must specifically state as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”

In certain instances there may be a benefit for a married couple to go into title as tenants in common if the value of the property is such that the parties and their heirs can benefit from utilizing certain estate tax exemptions in the most effective way upon each other’s deaths.

Below the grantee section is conveyance language and a description of the property being transferred. It is either a metes and bounds description, which is gleaned from a survey, or a reference to a duly filed subdivision map. Sometimes it is referred to as “Schedule A” and referenced on a subsequent page.

The language below the property description will vary depending upon the type of deed (Warranty, Bargain and Sale with Covenant against Grantors Acts, Bargain and Sale, Quit Claim, Fiduciary, Executor or Administrator’s) being delivered.

The grantor(s) signs at the bottom of the deed and his or her signature must be acknowledged before a notary so that the deed can be recorded in the County Clerk’s office.