Q. We are newly married and want to buy a house. How should we take title?
A. There are several ways that property can be owned:
Sole Owner. This is obvious; you own the property in your own name.
Tenants In Common. Here, two or more people own property together and each owner has a divisible interest in the property, usually 50/50, although there is no legal requirement that it has to be this way. For example, parents may buy a house with their children and split up ownership in accordance with a formula they decide upon. In this arrangement, on the death of one owner, his/her percentage ownership is part of the decedent's estate -- and the estate must be probated. The property interest does not transfer to the surviving owner. If there is a Will, that portion of the property will be distributed in accordance with its instructions.
Joint Tenants. Here, the parties jointly own the property. Under a joint tenancy arrangement, on the death of one owner, the property will automatically be transferred to the surviving joint tenant. Probate is not necessary. A joint tenancy ownership can, however, be unilaterally separated by one of the joint tenants. They could will their portion of ownership to another upon their death. However, the deed would have to be changed to reflect that they now hold ownership as "tenants in common". Since they now own the property as tenants in common, probate will be required.
Tenants By The Entireties: this is title reserved exclusively for husbands and wives, Although some married couples will hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the more common arrangement is to take title as tenants by the entireties. This means that on the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse automatically (by operation of law) becomes the owner of the entire property. Probate is not required. I'd be more than happy to discuss this further with you and answer any questions you may have. Just give me a call.