Yes consulting a Real Estate Attorney is the right thing to do, I can refer to one that I work with weekly on my Short Sales for the past 6 years.
Unless you can get a title insurance policy backing up free and clear title to the property you are interested in, the risk is very high that the title may be encumbered with costly items to clear.
California does not use Warranty Deeds. The Grant Deed backed by a title policy is the normative practice in California. See California Civil Code section 1092.
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My first move would be to contact a RE lawyer licensed in the state where the transaction is going to take place. Free "legal" advice on a public forum is usually worth every penny.