What Is the Difference Between a Property Deed and Title?

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Title is a legal term that means ownership while a deed is a legal document that serves to transfer the title of a piece of property from one party to another. The terms are used most often in the field of real estate, but deeds are also used in other circumstances.

“Title” in real estate refers to the legal concept of ownership. A title may be full or partial, meaning that other parties also have rights to the property. Possessing the title to a property implies several rights, including the right to have access to the property, to use it and to transfer that title to another party in whole or in part.

The deed, as the legal instrument that transfers the title from one party to another and under the Statue of Frauds, must be a written document signed by both parties. The seller is known as the grantor and the buyer as the grantee. In most states, the deed must be registered with a courthouse or assessor’s office to be fully binding but non-registration does not invalidate the actual sale. It only produces an irregularity in the sale’s documentation, referred to as an “imperfect deed.”

Deeds are also used in specialized circumstances, such as a tax deed that is issued when property is sold to pay unpaid taxes, or an executor’s deed, issued by the executor of an estate when selling the estate’s assets.