Real estate ownership is determined by a document called a deed. During the real estate transfer process, the seller’s closing attorney creates a deed that transfers the real estate from the seller to the buyer. So, if you want to know who holds the title to your property, look at your deed.

Sole Ownership

Sole ownership refers to an individual or other entity (living trust, Corp., LLC, etc.) owning the real estate, with no one else. For example, the deed may state “to Karl Magnus, in fee simple forever.” The obvious advantage is that the owner, Karl Magnus, can freely transfer the real estate with no objection from a co-owner. A disadvantage may be that the real estate does not automatically transfer to a joint owner by operation of law.

Tenancy in Common (TIC)

Tenancy in common means that two or more people or entities own a separate interest in the real estate. Upon the death of a tenant in common, their real estate interest becomes part of their estate or trust. It will not automatically transfer by operation of law. Unmarried people that wish to own real estate together often hold their interests as tenants in common. A disadvantage is that all tenants are jointly and severally liable for the debts and taxes of the real estate.

Joint Tenancy (JTROS)

Joint Tenancy with rights of survivorship means that if one owner dies, their real estate interest passes to the surviving joint owners at the moment of death. It passes outside of their probate estate or living trust. This avoids probate until only one person survives. Disadvantages may include the possibility of having a creditor of one joint owner force the sale of the real estate. Also, there is no restriction on joint tenants transferring their interests without their fellow tenants’ consent. If you were the surviving joint tenant, how would you feel if you found out that another joint tenant transferred their interest to someone else prior to death?

Tenants by Entirety (TBE)

Tenants by the entirety is ownership similar to joint tenancy, except that the owners must be legally married to each other and occupy the real estate as their primary residence. One spouse cannot transfer their interest without the other spouse’s consent. The creditors of one owner cannot force the sale of the property to satisfy a judgement. The seller’s real estate lawyer or closing attorney will prepare the deed, transferring the real estates to you and your spouse as Tenants By The Entirety.

Where can I Find my Deed?

The sale and purchase of real estate is commonly referred to as the closing. Once the closing is over, the title company records the deed identifying the ownership of the real estate in the county recorder’s office where the real estate is located. You can obtain a copy of your recorded deed by visiting your local recorder of deeds in person or on-line.