“How should I hold title?” is a question that doesn’t even occur to some property buyers until they are asked at closing.
There are options to holding title to your property and your choice of how the deed should read can have far-reaching ramifications. It may even so far as to affect where you want your property to go after you die.
Here are some basics about holding a title of which you should be aware:
The title to your property may be held in your name as Sole Ownership, in Joint Tenancy or in Tenancy in Common.
Sole ownership means the title is held solely in one person or business entity name, thus no one else is shown as sharing an ownership interest except for the named titleholder.
Joint tenancy means that you hold the title with someone else and when one of you dies, the property passes directly to other without passing through probate. This is called “the right of survivorship”. The survivor just files an affidavit about the death of the other owner and provides a copy of the death certificate
and the property passes on to the survivor with no further action. This is not available for business entities or trusts.
Florida is one of the states that add a twist to the joint tenancy proposition. If you hold the title as legal spouses, it is deemed a tenancy “by the entirety”. That means that you can’t end a joint tenancy simply by conveying your interest in the property to someone else as you can in some other states. You can’t
transfer your interest unless both spouses participate in the transfer. This form of ownership for married couples provides significant asset protection and estate planning benefits that are beyond the scope of this article and is best discussed with your attorney.
Tenancy in common is also a way to hold title in several names, but upon the death of one of the people on the title, the deceased’s interest gets distributed according to their will. If they’ve left no will, their interest will get distributed according to state law.
There are some other intricacies about holding a title of which you should be aware:
A title Held in Trust may be created by an attorney for estate planning purposes or for business reasons. A Corporation, Limited Liability Company or Partnership may (as a legal entity) also own property,.
How you hold the title has great import on both the legal ownership and the transfer of property in the event of the titleholder’s death. Some states even restrict the way you may hold title, so all those mentioned here may not be applicable. Discuss your situation with a real estate attorney before making a decision.
Consult the American Land Title Association for more information.