How to hold title in Washington
You can hold title in 5 separate ways – each with its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your situation and how you want ownership to transfer in case of death, divorce or sale.
Joint tenancy involves two or more people holding title to real estate jointly, with equal rights to enjoy the property. In case one of the holders passes away, that individuals rights of ownership pass to the surviving tenant(s).
The major advantage of this method is that the parties in the ownership need not be married or related.
The downside is that any financing or use of the property for financial gain must be approved by all parties and cannot be transferred by will after one passes. If the parties are not married, in order to get out of the title, they must petition the court to divide the property or order its sale.
Tenancy in Common
With tenancy in common, two or more persons hold title to real estate jointly, with equal rights to enjoy the property during their lives. Unlike joint tenancy, tenants in common hold title individually for their part of the property and can sell it at will. Ownership can be willed to other parties, and in the event of death, ownership will transfer to that owner’s heirs undivided.
Tenancy in common allows for one owner to use the wealth created by their portion of the property as collateral for financial transactions, and creditors can place liens only against one owner’s particular portion of the property.
There must be clean title in Washington for a property to sell. Therefore, any liens on the property must be cleared in order for a total transfer of ownership to take place.
Tenants By Entirety
Tenants by entirety is ownership in real estate under the fictional assumption that husband and wife are one person for legal purposes. This method conveys ownership to them as one person, with title transferred to the other in entirety if one of them dies. This method can only be used when owners are legally husband and wife.
The advantage of this method is that there is no need for a will, and probate or other legal action isn’t necessary. Ownership automatically passes to surviving spouse.
Conveyance of the property must be done together and the property cannot be subdivided. In the case of divorce this type of title automatically converts to a tenancy in common, meaning that one owner can transfer ownership of their respective part of the property to whomever they wish.
Sole ownership can be characterized as ownership by an individual or entity legally capable of holding title. The most common sole ownerships are held by single men and women, married men or women who hold property apart from their spouse, and businesses with corporate structure allowing it to invest in or hold interest in real estate.
The main advantage is the ease with which transactions can be accomplished because no other party needs to be contacted to authorize a sale.
The big drawback is the potential for legal issues to arise regarding transfer of ownership should the sole owner die or be incapacitated. A will would need to exist or transfer of ownership can become very complex.
Community property is a form of ownership by husband and wife during their marriage. Under community property, either spouse has the right to dispose of their half of the property or will it to another party.
Real estate that is acquired during a common-law marriage will also be considered to be held as community property.
If you have any questions about how to hold title in your purchase please reach out and I would be happy to help. If you have other questions about purchasing real estate, the Windermere buyers page is a good resource.