When you buy your home, or any other real property, one of the many questions you’ll need to answer is how you want to take title to your new property. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand what their choices are or what effect their choices might have in the future. Often, people make a random choice at the title company when they go in to sign their closing documents. Nonetheless, there are a variety of options which should be considered and understood.
If only one person is taking title to the property, one option is to take title in your individual name. This is exactly what it sounds like, simply putting your name, for example, John Doe, on title. This is an option even if you’re married, though a married individuals need to get their spouse to sign a quit claim deed releasing any interest their spouse may have in the property. The effect of taking title in your individual name is if you’re unable to execute transfer documents, often due to death, it’s likely court intervention via probate is going to be necessary for your property to be transferred. Probate will be utilized to transfer your property to the individual(s) identified in your will or by state intestacy laws.
When two or more people are taking title to real property, the most common choices are to take title as tenants in common, or as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Tenancy in common is a method of taking title to real property that allows for concurrent ownership by two or more people. The owners may own interests of unequal size in the property, for example one person owning one-third of the property while the other owns two-thirds. Regardless of the size of their interest in the real property each owner has the right to use and occupy the property. Further, each owner can sell or transfer their interest without affecting the other owner’s interests. Upon the death of any of the owners, the individual owner’s interest will transfer utilizing the probate process in a similar manner as property held in an individual’s name.
Joint tenancy with right of survivorship allows concurrent ownership by multiple individuals, though each individual must own an equal share. Similar to tenancy in common, all owners have the right to use and occupy the property. The primary difference for joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is after the death of the first owner, the property automatically transfers to the other owner(s) without any court intervention and the final survivor eventually becomes the sole owner of the property. An additional difference is if owners transfer their interest during their lifetime it automatically terminates the joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
One other option for holding title to real property is dependent upon the estate plan of the owner(s). If the owner(s) have a living trust, then title is going to be held in the name of the trust and upon the death of the owner(s), the property transfers pursuant to the terms of the trust.
Should someone desire to change title to their real property, they can do so at any time. Simply executing and recording a new deed will change title to the property and such a deed can be acquired from a title company or a real estate attorney.
Jennifer Mahe has practiced law in the Northern Nevada area since 2005 focusing on general civil matters such as real estate, business, litigation and estate planning. She can be reached either via the Mahe Law, Ltd. website, www.mahelaw.com, or at 775-461-0992. If you have a legal topic related to general civil law which you would like to see addressed in this column in the future please send that topic to the Nevada Appeal.