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Unbiased Financial Information Provided by Financial Finesse

Buying a home is a major investment and owning one is a big responsibility. How you hold title determines what legal and financial rights and responsibilities you have related to the property.

Different Types of Ownership Offer Distinct Advantages

Sole Ownership: One person has ownership of the property, meaning they get all the benefits of ownership (like tax deductions and equity)...and all the drawbacks (such as repair bills and legal responsibility if someone hurts themselves on the property).

Tenancy in Common: Each tenant owns a separate part of the property but has the right to use the entire thing. The piece of the property they own can be given or sold to anyone else without the permission of the other tenants in common. There is no right of survivorship among tenants in common, meaning that if one of the tenants dies, his or her interest in the property does not pass to the other owners, but to heirs named in a will or, if there is no will, according to state law.

Joint Tenancy: Each tenant owns a separate part of the property but there is a right of survivorship among the tenants, meaning that if one joint tenant dies, his or her interest in the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s) regardless of estate laws or stipulations made in a will. In most cases, a joint tenant may not give or sell his or her interest in the property to anyone else without the consent of the other joint tenant(s).

Tenancy by the Entirety: This type of ownership exists in only about half of the states in the U.S. and is similar to joint tenancy, but it can be held only by a husband and wife. Each spouse holds a one-half interest in the property, which passes automatically at death to the surviving spouse. Tenancy by the entirety doesn't allow either party to terminate the other's right of survivorship without their consent.

Transferring Property Requires a Cautious Approach

There are many ways to transfer property; some methods include a gift, a sale, a trust, an insurance policy, and a will. However, choosing the best method can be tricky and brings up complicated legal, financial, tax and estate planning issues. Always proceed with caution when it comes to transferring ownership. Because every person's situation is different, it may be wise to get an attorney's input regarding the potential consequences of even a simple transfer.

Quitclaims

quitclaim deed is used by an owner giving up his or her interest in a property. Quitclaims are commonly used in divorces involving real estate, where one spouse is going to keep the home and the other spouse relinquishes any claim to it. Heirs who have been given an interest in real estate but want to transfer their ownership to another heir also use a quitclaim.

Keep in mind that when you sign a quitclaim deed, it transfers the title of the property to the person named in the deed but it doesn't release you from any financial responsibility you may have to a lender.

Beneficiary Deed (a.k.a. Transfer on Death Deed)

Similar to a quitclaim deed, a beneficiary deed transfers the title of property to another person, but only when the property owner dies. If there is more than one property owner, then the transfer does not occur until all property owners have died. Not every state recognizes this form of ownership, so check with your local County Recorder’s Office to find out if it is available in your area.

A deed is almost impossible to get out of once it has been signed and recorded, so you may want to consult an attorney before signing one. In fact, speaking with a professional who knows the ins and outs of property ownership is a good idea whenever you change title. You don't want to end up doing something you (or your heirs) might have to pay for down the road.