Treat family like outsiders with real estate deals


Reader Question: ​I’m buying some land from my sibling. Do ​I​ need to go through a lawyer with this purchase or can we do it ourselves with a quick claim deed?​ ​

​Monty’s Answer: ​When purchasing land from anyone, including a sibling, a parent, an in-law, or a person to whom you have no relation, there are several points to consider before proceeding. Here is a partial list:

  1. A quitclaim deed is an instrument that conveys the seller’s interest in a property without any warranty. For example, what if your sibling doesn’t even own the property.
  2. You want an up-to-date title insurance policy. The main reason is to be sure your sibling has the right to sell the property and that it is free and clear of all liens and encumbrances.
  3. A general warranty deed insures the property as long as you own it.
  4. You want a purchase agreement that spells out which party is obligated to pay for the expenses to transfer title. Specific fees are typically the responsibility of the seller, and others are the responsibility of the buyer. In addition to real estate tax proration, there are recording fees (for each party if the seller has or had a mortgage) and a real estate transfer tax to the state. There may be other expenses, depending on the circumstances. This document will also be useful in the future if the IRS ever has a question about the transaction.

Seek a legal opinion

A real estate attorney practicing near the property will have questions of you, and an opinion on the best course of action and other options. Understanding the ramifications of your choices before you make the decisions is prudent. Mistakes are easy to fix before they occur, and expensive to repair later.

It is unclear the value of the property involved, but if you are concerned about what an attorney will charge, you may be surprised. Here is a link to an article ( on that provides some pointers about how to find an excellent real estate attorney.

Do your homework

Consider starting your due diligence at the register of deeds office if you want to do independent research on the pros and cons. The Register of Deeds is near the county courthouse. Another source of information is a title insurance company. These are the people that manage the bulk of the work associated with property transfers. Attorneys often own title companies and typically handle the necessary paperwork for a small fee. It doesn’t hurt to check online. A search engine query on “quitclaim deed pros and cons” returned 315k results

Doing business with family

It is common to take shortcuts with family. All well intended, but frequently a costly mistake. When dealing with friends, family, and relatives doing it right the first time is paramount. Real estate deals gone sour within a family can have a ripple effect that lasts for long periods. Ensure there are no arguments or misunderstandings down the road.