Title To What?

Buying real estate is can already be a long and drawn out process.  After closing is completed, owners and lenders title insurance is in place, you can move in and relax, right?  You certainly should.  But did you take title the way you needed to?

Here in Virginia, there are several ways in which you can own real property.  Without getting into the business aspect of title, I will cover the ways for the average buyers to hold title.

  • Sole Ownership.   A single man or woman who is not legally married, OR a married man or woman as HIS or Her Sole and Separate Property.  This language will actually be printed on the deed to be recorded that will ensure the title his held in a separate estate.
  • Co-Ownership.  This is title to property that will be owned by two or more persons.  Within this type of ownership there are several different areas to explore.
  1. Tenants in Common.  This form is when there are two or more individuals holding an undivided fractional interest.  Basically each share in the property is entitled to a comparable portion.  Each person may sell, lease or will their own share, but cannot take out a voluntary lien, such as a mortgage, without each owner agreeing.  Involuntary liens, such as a judgment, will affect the title in whole, therefore must be paid upon the sale of the property.
  2. Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship.  This is two or more individuals who may or may not be married, or even related, who own equal interests in the property which is subject to the surviving owners.  Basically it means that each person holds an interest, and if one of the persons should pass away, that portion of interest in automatically transferred to the remaining owners in equal shares, therefore joint tenant property is not subject to probate or to disposition of a will.  However, the proper language MUST be written on the deed prior to its recording to actually state the joint tenancy.  Without the proper language, it is automatically assumed that title is Tenants in Common.
  • Tenants by the Entirety with Rights of Survivorship.  This form is reserved only for married couples to hold title with the same survivorship features as the Joint Tenancy allows.  There is always a possibility of tax benefits as well, but your accountant can give you further information on that area.

If you are unsure of which way you need to hold title, please contact your attorney, or we can put you in touch with one of our real estate attorneys.