Produced in partnership with Stuart Hatcher of Forsters LLP and Miri Stickland of Forsters LLP

The following Commercial practice note produced in partnership with Stuart Hatcher of Forsters LLP and Miri Stickland of Forsters LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Deeds
  • What is a deed?
  • Definition and purpose
  • The formalities
  • The limitation period
  • Consideration not required
  • When a deed is required
  • Powers of attorney
  • Leases
  • Transfers of land
  • More...


Under English law, legally binding agreements can be made orally, in writing or by deed.

This Practice Notice considers the circumstances in which a deed is necessary or desirable and the formalities that must be complied with.

  1. What is a deed?

  2. When a deed is required

  3. Formalities (1): in writing

  4. Formalities (2): face value

  5. Formalities (3): execution

  6. Formalities (4): delivery

  7. Escrow

  8. Witnessing

  9. Variation

  10. Failure to comply with formalities and other defects

For information on the execution of deeds in various jurisdictions outside England and Wales, see Practice Note: Execution of deeds—jurisdictional guide.

We have produced a toolkit that is a comprehensive, interactive resource to help users identify and work through the concepts and common issues when executing documents, including the execution of deeds. Each section or phase includes practical guidance, precedent clauses and Q&As relevant to that section. For more information, see: Execution toolkit.

What is a deed?

Definition and purpose

A deed is a written instrument which is executed with the necessary formality and by which an interest, right or property passes or is confirmed, or an obligation binding on some person is created or confirmed.

A deed is technically a type of ‘specialty’: a term historically applied to contracts for debts or to contracts entered into under seal.

Deeds should be contrasted with simple contracts under English law that (unlike a deed) may be made in writing without the formalities required for a

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