Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About Real Estate Title
[Note to Readers: The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway, or any other entity referenced. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.]
First, a caveat: Buyers who need advice about how to take title should consult their attorney ” and, if appropriate ” whoever is doing their estate planning, assuming that’s a different person.
That said, Realtors (and closers) do get asked ” at closing, if not before ” about how couples should take title to the home that they’re about to buy.
The standard options: 1) joint tenancy; or 2) tenants-in-common.
Pick Your Metaphor
What’s the difference?
Think of sharing ownership of a swimming pool with a neighbor (not very likely, but go with it for now).
You could share ownership, with each getting to use 100% of the pool.
That would be the equivalent of joint tenancy.
Alternatively, you could draw a line down the middle, and each get the use of half.
So far, so good.
The difference with real estate tenants-in-common is that, instead of literally drawing a line down the middle of the house, the legal ownership is split in two.
P.S.: Empirically, joint tenancy is by far the most common ownership option.
That’s because if something happens to one partner, the other automatically gains ownership of the whole ” without going through probate, the exercise of a will, or any other legal process.