The only way to transfer complete ownership of a house to anyone is by deed, the most common of which are the general warranty deed, the special warranty deed and the quitclaim deed. The primary difference between each type of deed is the number and scope of warranties it makes as to title, with the general warranty deed making the broadest warranties and the quitclaim deed making none. All transfer property with the same speed and ease. Quitclaim deeds are commonly used to transfer real property between spouses or to add a spouse to the title because the spouse who previously owned the property probably already has some sort of warranty deed, so further warranties don’t need to be made to new spouse.
Transfer by deed is not effective until a valid deed has been delivered and accepted. These are legal terms of art meaning you must give the deed to your spouse with the intent to transfer it immediately and your spouse must accept the transfer. Though not necessary for delivery and acceptance, generally, both of these requirements are met by recording the deed in the county wherein the real estate is located. For instance, if you hand the deed to your spouse, saying, “I want you to own this piece of property,” and your spouse accepts the deed, saying, “I accept this deed and title to this property,” delivery and acceptance have been made and the transfer is complete, even if your spouse then shoves the deed into a shoebox under the bed. Usually, however, people don’t do things this way, so recordation is a short-hand way of saying delivery and acceptance actually happened. If an unrecorded deed is challenged in court, you may have to prove delivery and acceptance. A recorded deed is presumed delivered and accepted.
As you probably already know, when you record a deed, it becomes part of the
public record. Once there it puts everyone in the world on constructive notice as to the details of the property transfer: what property was transferred; to whom; and for how much. It can take some time for your deed to show up in county real estate records, but that is not too important. The transfer will be considered complete from the day the recorder’s office received the deed.
It is easy enough to transfer your house to your spouse, but be careful of the circumstances in which you do so. If you are transferring the real property to your spouse in avoidance of known, actual creditors, you have effected what is known as a fraudulent transfer and it can be undone. For instance, if you are being sued in a personal injury lawsuit and you transfer title to your house to your spouse, a court can undo that transfer and allow the plaintiffs to collect judgment from your home. On the other hand, if you are in a profession where you often face personal liability for your professional actions and you decide to transfer the title your spouse just in case you get sued, that is a valid transfer. Doctors commonly do this. Contact your local real estate attorney for help with situations such as these.