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Deed Delivery, Recording

Deeds are the legal documents used to convey ownership and title to land. “Delivery” of the deed gives the instrument force and effect. Rhodes v. Hunt, 913 S.W.2d 894 900 (Mo. Ct. App. 1995). “Delivery signifies that all dominion and control over the deed is passed from the grantor (i.e., the person conveying the property) to the grantee (i.e., the person receiving the property)…with the intention of transferring the present ownership of land.” Id.

When does delivery occur? While recording a deed does create a presumption of delivery, it is not itself delivery of the deed. Greuter v. Wetekamp, 172 S.W.3d 822, 825 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005). What controls is whether the grantor intended a complete transfer and whether the grantor parted with dominion over the instrument with the intention of relinquishing all dominion over it and of making it presently operative as a conveyance of the title to the land. Meadows v. Brich, 606 S.W.2d 258, 260 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980). In short, then, the intention of the parties, particularly the grantor, is paramount. Galloway v. Galloway, 169 S.W. 2d 883 (Mo. 1943). Intention is manifested by acts, words or both. Id.

Frustratingly, a deed’s delivery, if otherwise effective, is not impaired by a contemporaneous agreement between the grantor and grantee that the deed not be recorded until after the death of grantor. Zumwalt v. Forbis, 163 S.W.2d 574, 577 (Mo. 1942). This is true even if the parties entertained the erroneous idea that it would not be in force until recorded. Turner v. Mallernee, 640 S.W.2d 517, 521 (Mo. Ct. App. 1982). 

Note that the foregoing discussion does not necessarily extend to beneficiary deeds. Beneficiary deeds are considered nonprobate transfers in Missouri and are treated differently.