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Types of Joint Property Titles and Protecting Your Financial Interests

For better or worse, in an economic crisis real estate often becomes a leading topic of interest, especially for existing property owners and potential owners. Whether you currently own property or are interested in purchasing property that becomes available, understanding the property title is important. It can be even more crucial when the property is titled to you along with other parties.

While some real property (i.e., real estate) is owned by an individual, many people own property with other persons, whether those persons are individuals or part of an entity. Under Florida law, when real property is owned by multiple persons, there are various ways that the property can be held among the individuals. There are pros and cons to each option, and you should discuss how you want to jointly hold title to the property with your attorney to ensure that you are making the best decision. For instance, the way that the names are worded on deeds has meaning and can have vast consequences if done incorrectly.

Furthermore, the terms for how the property is titled uses the word tenants, but it does not mean a tenant as we think of it today – as someone who rents from the owner. The English word “tenant” comes from the Latin word tenire, which means to hold or keep. The word tenant, as used in the terms explained below, refers to how a person holds title to the property.

Tenants in Common

This is the default way that property is held jointly in Florida. The property can be held in different percentages and can be devised or alienated without the consent of the other co-owners. Upon the death of the owner, their interest passes.

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship

As joint tenants with rights of survivorship, all of the co-owners equally own shares of the property. Upon the death of a co-owner, their interest extinguishes and passes to the other joint tenants. Once there is only one joint tenant left, then that person is the sole owner of the real estate.

Tenants by the Entirety

In order to own real property as tenants in the entirety, you must be married to the other owner. It is similar to joint tenants with rights of survivorship, but each spouse has an equal and whole interest in the property that cannot be severed and that exists as long as the individuals are married. Furthermore, a creditor of one spouse cannot attach a judgment to the real property.

Entities

In addition to holding title as individuals as mentioned above, real property can be held by an entity, such as an LLC, partnership, corporation or other form, which can be set up however you decide is best for you. By using an entity to own property, you may protect yourself from liability. Additionally, through this type of joint ownership, you and any co-owners may draft an operating agreement, shareholder agreement or the like that can set forth the rules and guidelines for how you will manage the property.

The Takeaway

Given the current situation with COVID-19 and the economy, it is important that property is titled and held correctly to protect your assets from any potential liability. While holding property individually has its benefits, one of the biggest potential pitfalls is that if you or one of your co-owners are involved in litigation, then the property could possibly be taken from you, your co-owners or forced to be sold.

It is important that you contact an experienced attorney to ensure that your assets are held and titled correctly to protect yourself. These decisions are important and also should include careful consideration for your estate plan. If you are deciding on property ownership, including property that will be jointly held, please contact me or your Widerman Malek real estate attorney today for assistance.

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