When purchasing a home or property, most people do not know that there are several forms of ownership.
Regarding inheritance and passing on property, each form has its own way of affecting your property when you die.
It’s a bit complicated, but if you are planning on leaving your children property, you should have a basic understanding of these options.
*Not all states have each form of ownership as an option*
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Three Ways to Own Property
There are three ways to own property; individually, jointly with others, or by contract rights.
Each of these has there own way of affecting your property after you die.
This simply means that you own your property by yourself. There is no other owners or a beneficiary designation. When you die, your property will have to go through probate to release your name and be changed into whomever you want to take ownership.
Joint ownership is when you own your property with someone else. Within this type of ownership, there are subtypes.
- Joint Tenancy with right of survivorship: All owners have an equal right to the property. For example, if the property in question is a bank account, any of the joint owners may withdraw funds as long as they have permission from the other owner. However, in the case of real estate, the property cannot be sold or mortgaged without all parties agreeing ahead of time. When one owner dies, the ownership automatically goes to the other owner.
- Tenancy by the Entirety: This type of ownership is available only for married couples (same-sex couples in some states are eligible as well). It is very similar to joint tenancy in that there is an equal right to the property and when one spouse dies, the other automatically acquires ownership.
- Community Property: This type of ownership is for married couples only as well. Each person’s ownership is set by specific state laws that state what their rights are.
- Tenancy in Common: Each person who “owns” the property owns a specific percentage and can withdraw, mortgage, or sell his own piece. When one tenant dies, their percentage does not automatically go to the other owners. Instead, the property goes to his beneficiaries.
Title by Contract
You have complete control of your property while you are alive. After death, your property will pass outside of probate to your beneficiary.
Only Some State Recognize Tenancy by the Entirety
Most states recognize all forms of joint ownership. However, not all recognize tenancy by the entirety.
Here are the states that recognize it:
|States With Tenancy by the Entirety Ownership|
|District of Columbia||North Carolina*|
|* For real estate only
** For homestead property only
† Joint tenancy of husband and wife is automatically a tenancy by the entirety
‡ Only if created before April 4, 1985
*Washington State Does Not Recognize Tenancy by the Entirety*
Most Common Titles of Ownership for Washington State
There are five different forms of ownership recognized in Washington State. Each one is slightly different and affects your property differently in the case of your death.
- Single Individual: Not married or in a legal partnership
- Separate Property: A married person who individually holds the title without a spouse
- Community Property: Property that is acquired after marriage or legal partnership
- Tenancy-In-Common: Two or more people whose interest is in the property who are not married or partnered. The interest of each tenant would be passed down though heir
- Joint Tenancy: Two or more people with an equal interest in the property. When one tenant passes, the property interest is automatically passed on to the other tenant(s). (This form is the most like tenancy by the entirety)
For more information about Tenancy by the Entirety, you can read our other articles here or here.