Real estate law allows buyers to choose from many options when taking ownership of a home. It is very important to discuss your title options with a real estate professional, because the way you take ownership of real estate has long-lasting consequences. These consequences may include who can sign documents involving the home and the future rights of people involved in the transaction. The type of title or vesting can also affect title transfer, inheritance, and taxes.
Ways of Holding Title
The following are common forms of title ownership explained. At Affinity Escrow, we encourage you to ask questions from a legal expert if you are not sure which title option best fits your needs.
Most people are familiar with sole ownership in which one person or entity acquires title. In most states, sole ownership can apply to:
- A single woman or man, unmarried man or woman, or a widow or widower.
- A domestic partner as sole and separate property.
- A married man or woman as sole property. If this is the case, the title company must have the spouse of the person acquiring title specifically give up his or her right of ownership.
Real estate title can be vested to two or more people. There are many ways to do this including the following:
Joint tenancy means that two or more people (who may or may not be married) share an equal interest in the home. This ownership is subject to the right of survivorship. Title must be acquired by all parties at the same time. If one owner dies, title automatically goes to the surviving joint tenant or tenants. The property will not be subject to disposition by will of the deceased.
Tenancy in Common
Tenancy in common means that the home is owned by two or more people who have an undivided fractional interest. The interests of the owners can be unequal both in terms of the quantity (such as 30/70 ownership) or in terms of duration. Ownership may also come about at different times, unlike joint tenancy. All tenants in common own a share of the property and a share of the expenses and income from the property. Co-tenants have the right to sell, lease, or will their share.
Community property, primarily recognized in the western states, is a common way of vesting title. With this option, the property is owned by domestic partners or married people, unlike separate property, which may be acquired before a partnership, after separation, or during marriage if the other spouse waives their right of ownership.
Under California law and the other western states recognizing community property, property conveyed to any married person is automatically presumed to be community property unless it is explicitly stated otherwise.
Community Property with Right of Survivorship
This type of title is signed by domestic partners or spouses. It is similar to community property, except it protects spouses with the right of survivorship found with joint tenancy. If one owner dies, the decedent's interest ends and the survivor owns all of the property.
Other Forms of Ownership
The above are the most common ways to vest title although there are a few other options. For example, property may be vested to a corporation, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or the trustee of a trust, in which case the title is transferred by the grantor to the trustee to be held for any beneficiaries.
Remember that how the property title is vested has very serious consequences, both legal and financially. Affinity Escrow Services provides expert escrow services and can help explain the different types of vesting title including which option might be right for you. However, always consult with an attorney in order to fully understand the ramifications associated with each option.