Straightening out title of home with 3 owners



February 23, 2003

Dear Mr. Azrael:

In 1990, my husband and I arranged for the purchase of a house in Anne Arundel County, naming him, myself and two of our children as four-way ownership.

In 1991 my husband died, naming me as his beneficiary. At his death and subsequent probate of his will, do I now own 50 percent of the house? Or is ownership now divided between the three surviving owners?

What will I have if the house is sold?

What will happen to my share when I die and what arrangement should be made regarding the house in my will?

Thanks for any advice you might care to give.

Gloria McPartlin Catonsville

Dear Mrs. McPartlin:

You need to consult the 1990 title deed to determine the ownership rights of you and your children in the home.

The deed may provide that you and your late husband owned a one-half interest and your children owned the other half.

In that case, when your husband died, you would own a 50 percent interest.

It's more probable that the title deed provides that the four family members all were equal joint tenants, each owning a 25 percent interest with right of survivorship.

In that case, after your husband's death, you and your two children each own an undivided, one-third interest in the home.

In a joint tenancy, your property interest will pass to the surviving joint tenants upon your death.

You cannot change the joint tenancy by your will. But you can break a joint tenancy by conveying your interest by deed during your lifetime.

Should you want to will your interest in the home to one of your children or to someone else, an attorney can assist you by preparing legal documents to accomplish your objective.

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