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Joint tenancy or tenancy in common between spouses

Buying a piece of real estate is more expensive than ever in some circumstances, and more and more couples are choosing to buy property jointly than ever before. Buying property jointly allows you and your spouse or partner to use both of your incomes to qualify for a mortgage, and it also entails executing the title to the property in one of two ways — under joint tenancy or tenancy in common.

In most cases, executing the title under joint tenancy or tenancy in common does not have any serious differences. However, if one of you passes away before the other, the form of tenancy you choose can greatly impact the transfer of the property after death.

Under joint tenancy, the surviving tenant automatically receives the property upon the death of the other tenant. This is useful and common between spouses, because it avoids probate and doesn't even require a will in order to make the transfer. In fact, even if a will states that the property should go to another party, joint tenancy generally passes the ownership to the other tenant anyway.

Contrastingly, tenancy in common allows a tenant's right in a property to pass to any person indicated properly in a will upon the death of that tenant. This is useful if one party wishes to leave his or her interest in the property to some heir other than one's partner or spouse.

Whatever your preferences might be, it is important to discuss these issues with an experienced attorney if you and your partner or spouse plan to jointly buy real estate. With proper guidance from an experienced attorney, you can ensure that both your rights and the rights of the ones you love remain secure.

Source: Findlaw, "Transferring Property," accessed May 19, 2017

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