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What Are the Best Ways I Can Hold Title to Real Estate?

There are a variety of ways that you can hold title to real estate. Most of your options offer a few positive attributes, as well as one or two minor drawbacks. If you are single and living alone without a significant other, then you probably have the freedom to choose among all of the various deeds that are available.                                                                              However, if you are married or co-habiting with a significant other, you need to be especially cautious about the type of deed you and the other party choose.

            Here’s a brief overview of the different types of property deeds that are available and how their basic attributes can prove useful – or maybe even a bit restrictive.            

Different Ways You Can Hold Title to Land                       

  1. In your name alone. You are free to do this, even if you’re married. However, this can create some problems should you ever have to travel frequently or become seriously ill when your property requires immediate attention – possibly in connection with some type of natural weather disaster or similar unexpected event. Be sure you have a durable power of attorney naming someone who can step right in and act on your behalf if you are out of town or become incapacitated.  Married spouses often name one another as each other’s durable power of attorney – for both jointly and individually held properties;
  2. Tenants-in-common. This type of deed ownership allows you and your spouse (or other co-owner) to separately decide who will receive your share of the property when you die. You can name the co-owner as your will beneficiary -- or anyone else you choose;
  3. Joint tenants with a right of survivorship. This type of deed is rather self-explanatory. In general, a majority of married couples hold the deeds to their homes in this manner. When one of them dies, the other party immediately becomes sole owner of the property, without having to go through probate;
  4. Community property states operate a bit differently. Although you can still own separate property in such states, especially if you’ve inherited it or brought it into the marriage with you, these state’s laws dictate certain requirements as to how much of your property must be left to your spouse.  Georgia is not a community property state. However, here are the ones that are -- named in alphabetical order:  Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. In general, these states usually require spouses to hold most property in some type of joint ownership arrangement;
  5. Tenants-by-the-entirety. This form of property ownership operates quite similarly to the joint tenancy with right of survivorship model. When one of you dies, the other party inherits everything without having to go through probate.  The main difference with holding property in this manner – which can actually operate as a safeguard in some ways – is that neither party can deed away his or her share of the property without the other person’s permission;
  6. You can also hold property in the form of a revocable living trust. When you choose to title property in this manner, it will actually be held in the name of your trust’s manager or trustee.

Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia