One of the questions buyers need to decide during their home purchase is “how to hold title” to their new property. Well, owning a home is unlike owning any other possession. When you own personal property like your car, television or clothing, that is a little more straight forward. They belong to you and you can use or dispose of them as you see fit. The way you own property is different.
The way you own your property is referred to as how you “hold title” or “hold tenancy” to that property. How you choose to do this has many consequences as to legal ownership and the way the property can be transferred if and when you pass away. Make sure you understand your choices before you decide during the home buying process. I have outlined some ways here, but be sure to ask your title/escrow company professional and/or legal advisor for more information if you have questions or if your situation is a bit more complex.
The simplest way to hold title is by holding sole ownership of the house. As the name implies, you alone hold all rights to the house. While this manner of ownership is often utilized by singles, a married person can claim sole ownership of a property if his or her spouse is willing to sign a document, called a quit claim deed, which effectively denies the spouse any rights to the property. Be sure to ask your legal advisor what recourse your spouse NOT on title will have in the event of the title holders death.
Joint tenancy with right of survivorship
Two or more people may hold title together in a form of ownership called joint tenancy. In this form of ownership, each owner has equal rights to the property as a whole. Should one of the owners die, under the right of survivorship, the deceased’s share will be automatically transferred to the co-owners of the property, not to the heirs of the deceased.
Tenancy in common
A broader way for a few people to hold title together is called tenancy in common. In this way, multiple people can hold either equal or unequal portions of one property. Two people can each own 50 percent of the property, or one may own 70 percent with the remaining 30 percent split between other individuals. Any combination is acceptable. Any owner can independently sell, give or will his or her share of the property at any time. This might create friction between the co-owners, so it is common practice to have a written agreement between the owners specifying how one can transfer his or her interest in the property.
Tenancy by the entirety
A few states in the U.S. offer a specific form of joint tenancy, called tenancy by its entirety, exclusively to married couples. Husband and wife hold title together and must make all decisions on the property jointly. This is beneficial if one spouse has a large debt, as creditors cannot go after this type of jointly-owned property. When one spouse dies, the other gets full title to the property.
Property acquired during a marriage is recognized in many U.S. states as community property. Husband and wife each own half the property and each can will their half to someone else. If the community property is owned with right of survivorship, the surviving spouse will own the entire property.
Additionally, should you decide you would like to change the way you currently hold title to your property, contact your local title/escrow professional for advise on how this can be done.
If you need any referrals for title and escrow, please do not hesitate to contact me. I work with the some of the best individuals in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties!! For help with this or any other real estate related question or if you have suggestions for future articles, please contact me directly at 530-681-2532 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.