Unlike when you purchase an item for sale in a store, when you buy a house you have to have it titled in order to convey ownership. This title must be transferred when assets are sold and must be cleared of any tax liens in order for transfer to take place. In a real estate transaction there are several ways to hold title of a property. There are the two most common.
If you’re a single person buying a home, your options for the way you hold title are limited. You may hold title to your property as an individual. In some states, very few, you may hold title in a land trust. A land trust is a legal invention where the sole asset in the trust is the property you are buying, and the beneficiary of the trust is you. At one time, you could use a land trust to completely obscure the identity of the beneficiary. Today, the veil of the land trust has been lifted.
Two or More Buyers or a Married Couple
If you’re married, you can hold property in one of four ways.
Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is the most common way married couples hold property. You each own the property as a whole, if you or your spouse dies, that person’s share in the property is immediately transferred to the spouse. You share and share alike in the entire property.
Tenants in Common
If you hold the property as tenants in common, your share in the property can be broken down into percentages. For example, you might own 30% of a house, your spouse may own 30%, and your parents may own 40%.
While you may use and enjoy the whole property, you cannot be restricted to your 30%. You can sell your share of the property, similarly to how you would sell stock in a company. You should be able to sell your share to whomever you choose.
Tenancy by the Entirely
This is an option that is only available to married couples. It has the same benefits as joint tenancy, with rights of survivorship, but as long as the couple is married, it protects the interest of each spouse. With tenancy by the entirely, both spouses in the marriage must agree before the property is subject to one spouse’s creditors. So, no spouse may do anything that would create a claim or lien on the martial property.
For example, if Charles is sued, the creditors could not attach the resident because he and Jessica each own the whole property. Creditors would have to wait until the marriage is severed, or the spouse consented to the claim, or the property is sold. Once the property is sold, a claim can be attached to the proceeds.
As with any questions about title ownership, you should consult a local attorney or title company. They, along with your REALTOR® should be able to guide you to the best title option for you.