Love often seems simple. The same can’t always be said for joint ownership of real estate in Florida.
Properties owned by more than one person can create problems in the future if all owners are not on the same page. As real estate professionals, we help our clients avoid future headaches by advising how joint property ownership works.
For example, the difference between taking title as “tenants in common” vs “joint tenants” can seem inconsequential on closing day. But this seemingly subtle distinction matters a lot down the road.
Let’s explore these two types of joint ownership:
Tenants in Common
In a Tenants in Common (also seen as TIC) ownership structure, each person listed on the deed has a respective ownership interest in the property, with the default rule being equal ownership. Both owners can use and access any and all areas of the property.
Tenants in Common owners can also own unequal percentages of the property. They can split the property 60%-40% or 75%-25%, for example. In Florida, tenancy in common is the default form of property ownership for homes owned by two people who are not married.
Joint Tenants, sometimes known as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (or JTROS), is similar to Tenants in Common, with one major difference - upon the death of an owner, the surviving owner gets full ownership of the property (this is the ‘survivorship’ aspect). In Florida, and most other states, married couples automatically become joint tenants in their homes. Married couples will often see or hear the term Tenants by the Entireties (or TBTE), which is very similar to a Joint Tenant ownership structure, just reserved for married persons. TBTE retains the survivorship aspect noted above.
People who aren’t married can also elect to become Joint Tenants if they choose to take title this way at closing. Similarly, married couples could become Tenants in Common if so desired.
Why Does It Matter?
Joint Tenants, due to the right of survivorship, have a big advantage that Tenants in Common do not have - upon an owner’s death, the property will NOT go through probate, as the surviving owner automatically receives 100% ownership interest in the property. Avoiding probate court saves time, money and headaches.
Tenants in Common, however, do not have this right. Instead, if one of the owners dies, that owner’s heirs will inherit the ownership stake, NOT the co-owner listed on title.
If the deceased owner passes away without proper titling of their ownership interest (i.e. owning in the name of a Trust, or an Enhanced Life Estate Deed / Ladybird Deed), the deceased owner’s share will have to go through probate court to determine who the rightful heir(s) are who will inherit the property. Going through probate court can take a considerable amount of time and money, and will delay the sale of the property.
Which One is Better?
Both ownership arrangements have their advantages and disadvantages. Whether home buyers should take title as Tenants in Common or Joint Tenants depends on their particular goals and needs.
Before making a decision of this magnitude, we should encourage all our clients to reach out to discuss their particular scenario before closing day.
Butler Title is a full-service, attorney owned and operated title insurance agency. We keep it simple and focus on what we do best: real estate closings. From first-time buyers to local moguls, BT provides an industry-leading fee structure and unparalleled experience.
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