If you’re thinking about planning your estate, you’ve hopefully considered working with a lawyer to create important documents like a will or trust agreement, power of attorney, and a health care directive. One thing you might not realize, though, is that the way you title your property can have just as big of an impact on your loved ones as any of those documents.
How you title property matters because it affects how difficult it will be for your loved ones to take control of your assets after you die. Choosing the right titling solution can mean the difference between your wishes being carried out in a smooth process or your loved ones dealing with a headache in probate court to sort everything out.
Different Options for Titling Property: Which One Is Right for You?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for titling property that works for every stage of life and scenario. Instead, you need to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer who can learn about your unique situation and find the option that makes the most sense for you and your family.
Below, we’ve created examples of some different life circumstances and described the property titling situation that might apply. If any of these sound like the situation you’re in, you might want to talk with a lawyer.
Life situation: You’re young and single and own a home.
Property titling solution: Sole ownership
Sole ownership is just what it sounds like: you hold the title to your property in your name alone. This can make sense if you’re young and unmarried. There aren’t any special advantages, tax-related or otherwise, to sole ownership of property, and your property will have to pass through probate (which costs time and money) after you die.
- Property titling solution: Sole ownership
Life situation: You and some friends pool your money to purchase a lakefront vacation property. You make an arrangement where each person gets the property for a certain number of weeks per year.
Property titling solution: Tenancy in common
Tenancy in common is a useful way for people who aren’t married to hold property together (like real estate investors, for example). The major advantage of tenancy in common is that each tenant can pass their share of the property (as specified in the deed) to whomever they want by creating a will. This makes sense if you want a loved one to get your share of the property rather than the other title-holders.
For people in second marriages, tenancy in common can also be a useful option since it allows them to will their share of a property specifically to their children from a first marriage.
One downside of tenancy in common is that property titled this way is usually still subject to probate court costs and delays.
- Property titling solution: Tenancy in common
Life situation: You’re married, and you and your spouse own your home together.
Property titling solution: Tenancy by the entirety
Tenancy by the entirety, which is only available to married couples in Florida, allows two spouses to jointly hold property on an equal basis. If one spouse dies, the other spouse takes sole ownership of the property. This happens automatically, without any probate process or other legal requirements, which is one of the major advantages of tenancy by the entirety.
One potential downside of tenancy by the entirety is that if one spouse becomes the sole owner of the property and then dies, or if both spouses die at the same time, the property won’t transfer so easily. It will have to go through probate before the spouses’ children or other survivors can take possession of it.
- Property titling solution: Tenancy by the entirety
Life situation: You’re getting older and are single or widowed, and you have no need to own your house independently, so you want to share the title of your house with your son or daughter.
Property titling solution: Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship
Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is a lot like tenancy by the entireties, except the parties aren’t married. In the example above, when you pass away, the property will pass to your son or daughter automatically, without going through probate. Having your child on the house’s deed also allows them to help you make improvements to the house (like building a bathroom downstairs because you can’t get to the second story).
- Property titling solution: Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship
Life situation: You’re single and you have no children, but you’d like to pass your property to a charity, church, or loved one after you die.
Property titling solution: Life tenancy with remainderman (often called a “life estate”)
A life estate allows you to reserve your property for your own use — including the right to sell it or make any changes and improvements you want — during your lifetime. After you die, though, the property will pass to the person or organization you’ve named as the remainderman without going through probate.
A life estate is only available to someone who would otherwise be the sole owner of a property, so it doesn’t allow someone to disinherit their spouse or minor children and give their estate to charity instead.
- Property titling solution: Life tenancy with remainderman (often called a “life estate”)
Of course, these are just quick examples — real life is usually a lot more messy and complex. If you want to know more about which estate planning solution makes the most sense for you, contact our team at the Devolder Law Firm to get personalized advice from experienced lawyers who know how to help you protect what matters most.
The Devolder Law Firm: Estate Planning Attorneys for Clients in New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, and the Tampa Area
If you’re ready to start planning your estate and securing your loved ones’ financial well-being for the future, the Devolder Law Firm is here to help. When you work with us, we’ll take the time to understand your situation and your unique needs so we can help you craft an estate plan that addresses your wishes and concerns for many years to come.
If you’re ready to take the next step, call us at 813-724-3880 or fill out our convenient online contact form. We’ll get in touch with you right away to schedule an initial consultation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.