It's best to consult a real estate attorney before deciding but, unfortunately, most homeowners don't do that.
To help with the decision, here are the pros and cons of the five most common ways to hold title to your home:
1. Sole ownership
If you are single, one way to hold title to your home is in your name alone. This method is also called ownership in severalty.
When a married person takes title to real property in his or her name alone in sole ownership, the spouse is usually asked to sign a quitclaim deed giving up any ownership interest in the property.
This might be done, for example, when a husband invests in properties but his wife is not involved with the realty investments.
There are no special tax or other advantages of holding title in sole ownership. When the sole owner dies, any property held this way is subject to probate court costs and delays.
2. Tenants in common
When two or more co-owners take title to real estate, especially if they are not married to each other, they often become tenants in common. For example, two realty investors might select this method.
Each tenant in common owns a specified interest in the property. It need not be equal. For example, one owner might own a 50% interest, another could own a 10% interest and a third tenant in common could own a 40% share. The percentage ownership is specified on the deed.
A major advantage is that each tenant in common can sell or pass his interest by his will to whomever he or she wishes.
For this reason, tenancy in common is especially popular in second marriages, so each spouse can will his or her share to the children from a first marriage. Tenancy in common property is subject to probate court costs and delays.
A disadvantage is that the remaining tenant in common could wind up co-owning property with a stranger.
Another disadvantage (also true for joint tenancy) is that a tenant in common can bring a partition lawsuit to force a property sale if the other co-owners are unwilling to sell. The court can then order the property sold, with the proceeds split among the co-owners according to their ownership shares.
3. Joint tenancy with right of survivorship
When title is held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, all co-owners must take title at the same time; they own equal shares and the surviving co-owner winds up owning the entire property. In some states, when husband and wife use this method, it is called tenancy by the entireties.
After a joint tenant dies, the surviving joint tenant(s) receives the deceased's share. The deceased's will has no effect on joint tenancy property.
A major advantage is that probate costs and delays are avoided when a joint tenant dies. The surviving joint tenant(s) usually needs only record an affidavit of survivorship and a certified copy of the death certificate to clear the title.