How to record a quit claim deed without hiring a lawyer

Reader doesn’t understand why recording a quit claim deed to transfer title is to complicated

Q: I wanted to record a quit claim deed to transfer title of our home into our respective living trusts in order to avoid probate. Our plan was to record this deed ourselves to save money.

We thought we could record the deed and it would be a simple process. We’d go to the recorder’s office and pay the $100 fee to record the document and we’d be done.

Boy, were we in for a surprise. We live in Chicago, where you ordinarily have to pay a city, county and state tax to transfer title to a home and need to get a certificate from the City of Chicago water department to show that your water payments are current. We knew the process when selling a home was complex but thought we wouldn’t have to pay these fees as we were simply transferring the title of the home to our living trust.

Quit claim deed paperwork is complicated to record

Unfortunately, we found out that getting to a place where we could file the forms was practically impossible for us without legal assistance. There are too many steps and there is significant knowhow needed. In the end, it was too complicated for us to do it without professional help. When we tried the governmental agencies for help, we couldn’t find anyone that could give us human assistance.

We would hope that the process would allow a lay person to get this done. Any ideas what we could have done differently?

A: Our world has gotten quite complicated. Years ago, you could simply walk up to a teller window with a document and ask to record the document. The teller would look over the document, let you know how much you’d need to pay, accept payment, and record or file the document.

Technology has made recording quit claim deeds more complicated

In some ways, computers and modern information technology have made the process more difficult for people that are not “in the know.” The process everywhere has been made more complicated.

Recently, Sam helped a client that needed to transfer the ownership of their properties into their living trust. The properties were in Florida, Wisconsin and Illinois. As in your situation, the deed was simply a document that would transfer ownership of the home from Sam’s client’s name into the name of the clients’ living trust. There was no money that changed hands.

3 states = 3 different ways to record a quit claim deed

Each state had their own method for recording documents. In Wisconsin, you need to prepare a state form that goes along with the recorded document. Wisconsin collects transfer taxes at the state level with the recording of a deed. It has the transfer tax document online that you have to fill out. Then you print it and send into the local recorder of deeds with the new deed.

In Illinois, the state has an online system that you must use. This system helps you complete the transfer tax that you pay to the State of Illinois, along with many of the participating counties and some municipalities. If the municipality in which the property is located participates in the online process, you have to go to the state website. If not, then paying any taxes owed might require you to make additional stops at the county and municipal agency that collects the transfer taxes.

In Chicago, as in your situation, if you’re making a simple transfer like yours, you would not have to file the state and county forms. But you might need to obtain an exempt stamp for the local municipality along with a confirmation that the water bill is paid in full. And, you should know that some local municipalities will charge a fee to issue the exempt stamp while others will do it for free.

Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida have different processes for recording quit claim deeds

If you have successfully navigated the path of the state, county and local stamp forms and collection process, you then need to take the form to the local recorder’s office for recording. That also used to be a simple process. But now that many recorders of deeds accept online filing of deeds, a person off the street might have to find a service to help them record the document. Or, you would need to go to the main office for the recorder of deeds to get the document recorded.

Sam found the deed recording process easiest in Florida. But, in each state, the form for the deed was different and the information needed to record a deed from an individual into that person’s living trust varied. Some deeds required the document to be notarized and witnessed, while others only required the deed to be notarized.

How to record a quit claim deed? Carefully

The bottom line is that nothing’s that simple. What should be a simple task of recording a document requires deep knowledge:

  • About the system
  • The backup paperwork required to process the deed
  • Where you send the documents
  • How much you pay to get the document recorded

Computers and other systems make the system more efficient, particularly for professionals. But they do not make the process easier — certainly not for a person without experience in this area.

Read more about how to record a quit claim deed

Quit Claim Deed Archives

Quit Claim Deed and Mortgage Responsibility: Getting Name Off Mortgage

Will Quitclaim Deed Remove Ex-Spouse from Mortgage?

The Condition Use of the Quit Claim Deed

Sign up for Ilyce Glink’s Newsletter: Love, Money & Real Estate

©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. A1609