Does Washington State Recognize Tenancy By The Entirety?

When you buy a home with your spouse, you may not be aware that the way your ownership is titled can affect what happens to your property if one of you should pass away or if you choose to get a divorce.  There are five different ways your ownership can be titled; Sole Ownership, Tenants in Common, Joint Tenancy, Tenancy by the Entirety, and Community Property. Each of these has specific ways your property will be handled upon your death or divorce. 

In this article, we are going to look at whether Washington State recognizes Tenancy by the Entirety.


Types of Ownership Between Two People

There are three kinds of ownership by two or more people, including Tenancy by the Entirety. The other two are Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in common. The biggest difference between the three is that with tenancy by the entirety the tenant cannot sell or gift the property without the other tenant’s consent. If one tenant were to pass away, the other would get survivorship. Tenants in common do not have this right of survivorship.  Joint tenants do have the right to survivorship, but they also have the option to either sell or give away their interest in the property.


What Tenancy of the Entirety Means

Tenancy by the Entirety means that a husband and wife (in some states same-sex couples) own an equal share of the real estate and cannot sell their share without the permission of the other spouse. It is also coupled with the Right of Survivorship so that upon the death of one, the survivor is entitled to the decedent’s share.


Disadvantages of Tenancy by the Entirety

Some obstacles to Tenancy by the Entirety: If you decide to get a divorce, the property could no longer be subdivided. The title will automatically be changed to a Tenancy in Common.

In short, this means that either tenant could then transfer ownership to anyone they wish.  You can probably see where several troubles could arise from a situation like this.


Tenancy by the Entirety in Washington State

In Washington State, tenancy by the entirety is not recognized. The most common titles for property ownership are:

  • 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)

Connect With An Estate Planning Attorney in Washington State

If you are unsure what the title of ownership is on your property or what it means, it can impact how you plan to pass on your property after your death.  We will help you connect with a world-class estate planning attorney.

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