There are several ways to add name to a deed


April 01, 2001

Dear Mr. Azrael,

What are the steps in adding a name to a deed on a home? I know an elderly lady, recently disabled, who wants to add one to her deed.

Robert Scherer


Dear Mr. Scherer,

When elderly people add another person's name to a property deed, it's usually because they want that person to own the property when the older person dies.

There are several ways to add another person's name to a deed. Each method has different legal consequences, so it's important to do it correctly.

Life estate with powers. In this deed form, a property owner specifies one or more people who will own the property when the owner dies. The deed specifies that the owner reserves full powers to sell, convey, transfer or mortgage the property during his or her lifetime.

A "life estate with powers" deed is recommended in situations where the owner wants to retain full control of the property during his or her lifetime.

Joint tenancy. When one or more persons is added to a deed as a joint tenant with right of survivorship, he or she has an immediate ownership interest in the property. The whole property cannot be sold, transferred or mortgaged without the consent of all joint tenants. When one joint tenant dies, his share of the property passes automatically to the survivors.

Trust ownership. An owner may transfer real property to a trust. The named trustees hold title to the property for the benefit of named beneficiaries. The trust instrument usually provides for one or more trustees to manage and control the property. Beneficiaries may be allowed to use the property or receive distributions of income from rental property. The trust may be revocable or irrevocable. The person establishing the trust may or may not be a beneficiary of it.

Real property trusts often are used by elderly people to accomplish estate or tax-planning objectives. Property should not be transferred to a trust without competent tax and legal advice.

Power of attorney. Rather than add someone's name to a property deed, an elderly person may execute a power of attorney, which gives a person, designated by the owner, the power to act for the owner in selling, renting or mortgaging real estate.

A power of attorney is often recommended when elderly people want someone else to handle their financial affairs if they become disabled. Upon the death of a person, the power of attorney is no longer effective. The property will pass according to the will of the decedent. If the property has been sold before death, the proceeds will be part of the decedent's estate.

The decision on adding a name to a deed depends on what the owner wants to accomplish.

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