A home may be titled in various ways


July 18, 1999

I've received several questions from couples who want to know the various ways of titling a home.

Unmarried couples who purchase a home often take title as joint tenants.

One joint tenant is free to sell or mortgage his or her one-half interest; both must agree to sell or mortgage the entire property. Upon the death of one joint tenant, the property belongs to the survivor automatically, by operation of law. No retitling is necessary.

A judgment against only one joint tenant may become a lien on his or her interest when a creditor obtains a court-ordered attachment of that interest. One joint tenant can transfer his or her interest in the property. This transfer destroys the "joint tenancy," and the owners will be considered "tenants in common."

Unmarried or married couples may also take title to their home as tenants in common.

Under this form of tenancy, each person owns an individual one-half interest in the property, and may freely sell or mortgage that one-half interest. All tenants in common must agree to sell the entire property. Upon the death of a tenant in common, his or her interest passes according to the descendant's last will. If a tenant in common dies without a will, the interest passes to his or her spouse and descendants in accordance with the laws of intestacy. (I'll explain the laws of intestacy in a future column). A judgment against a tenant in common constitutes a lien against his or her interest in the real property.

The marriage of a couple who already owns real estate as joint tenants or tenants in common does not automatically convert ownership to a "tenancy by the entireties." A new deed must be executed to retitle the property.

It is relatively inexpensive to prepare and record a retitling deed. No transfer or recordation taxes are assessed on a retitling deed between the same parties. The only cost involved is $25 to record the new deed, plus the charge a lawyer or title company makes to prepare a legally sufficient deed.


Real estate questions are answered by Jonathan A. Azrael of Azrael, Gann and Franz.

Questions -- including name, address and daytime telephone number -- may be sent in the following ways:

Mailing address: Real Estate Mailbag, Fifth Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278-0001. Fax: 410-783-2517. E-mail: real.estate@baltsun.com

Call our Sundial audio-response number, 410-783-1800. Enter code 6170 after the greeting.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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