deed, in law, written document that is signed and delivered by which one person conveys land or other realty (see property) to another. A deed may assure the extent of the conveying party's ownership or, if the party is uncertain of the precise extent, he issues a quitclaim (i.e., a sale), without description, of whatever he may own. The formalities with which a deed is invested are designed to make the instrument conclusive evidence of the transaction described and to eliminate the need for further proof. In all states of the United States deeds must be formally delivered and their receipt formally attested. It is possible to deposit a deed with a third party or a court for delivery to the purchaser; this is termed a delivery in escrow. Most states also require that deeds be acknowledged by a duly authorized commissioner and that a copy be deposited with the clerk of the county where the realty is situated. If the formalities are not observed, a deed (or the contract purporting to convey realty) is some, but not conclusive, evidence of the conveyance.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.