Ways to Hold Title

When two or more people purchase property together, there are three ways that the title can be held. Knowing the implications of each form of ownership will help you decide how to write your deed.

“Tenancy by the entireties” is reserved exclusively for married people. Both husband and wife own an undivided interest in the property. On the death of one party, the surviving spouse owns the entire property and no probate will be necessary. When unmarried persons buy a home together, they should seek legal advice regarding how title should be held. As “tenants in common” each party owns a percentage interest in the property. On the death of one party his or her interest does not go to the surviving owner but is distributed in accordance with the will of the deceased, whose estate must be probated. As “joint tenants” each party owns an undivided, equal interest that passes automatically to the surviving joint tenant. Probate is not necessary if the deed reads “joint tenants with rights of survivorship”.

It is important to know that in most courts, if a deed is written without specification of how title is held, the property is titled as “tenants in common.”