The Most Common Ways to Hold Title to Property in Massachusetts

There are a lot of different ways you can “hold title” to property in Massachusetts. Holding title means you have some form of ownership over the property. How you choose to hold title is dependent on a lot of different factors. 

When you buy a home with others, you will have to decide how to take title. While an individual purchasing a home takes title individually, there are three main choices for married couples or friends buying a home: joint tenants, tenancy in common, and tenancy by the entirety. The appropriate form depends on your particular situation, and whether you hope to pass along your interest through a will or estate plan. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these arrangements. At Simple Title, our experienced real estate attorneys can advise on these matters. 

Sole Tenancy: 

The property is owned outright in one person’s name. It is your sole asset and may be disposed of at any time and can be passed through inheritance laws

Tenancy by the Entirety

A tenancy by the entirety is a form of co-ownership that is available only if you and the other owner of the property are married. If you and your spouse do not want to be tenants by the entirety when you buy a home, you should make sure you expressly state this in the title.

In a tenancy by the entirety, each of you has the right to occupy and use the property, and there is a right of survivorship. However, you cannot transfer your interest in the property without your spouse’s agreement. As long as you remain married, neither of you has an interest that can be leased, mortgaged, or sold, and the property cannot be divided or partitioned. Each of you maintains an undivided interest in the whole property, and you have the right to sole ownership if your spouse passes away. If you divorce, the tenancy by the entirety automatically turns into a tenancy in common. Each tenant in common will own half the property.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in Common means you all own the property together, but each person’s interest can be sold or transferred or passed through inheritance laws. For example you and two friends decide to buy a three family Building. At one point a friend decides they do not want to live there anymore, they can sell their 1/3 interest in the home. 

Tenancy in Common is a good idea when: 

  • One or more owners wish to leave their part of the ownership to someone other than their co-owners and/or
  • One or more owners wish to divide the property into unequal parts.

Joint Tenancy

Like Tenancy in Common, Joint Tenancy is for situation where there is more than one owner. Unlike Tenancy in Common, however, the ownership of the property in a Joint Tenancy must be divided equally. Also unlike the Tenancy in Common, when one party of a Joint Tenancy dies, their part of the property goes to the remaining tenant(s). A probate hearing is not necessary for this. 

Joint Tenancy is a good idea for sale in which the property will have more than one owner and:

  1. All owners wish to have equal parts of the property and/or
  2. All owners wish to leave their ownership to their co-owners upon their death.

Living Trusts

Property can be held in a Living Trust whether there will be one owner, or multiple owners. A Living Trust can help the owners avoid probate proceedings in the event of a death. Another reason someone may want to own property in a Trust is anonymity. Many celebrities own property in trusts, just so that people cannot look up their address. Most registries across the country will list the owner as the named Trust, not the individual/s.  

How you choose to hold the title to your property can have lasting effects on you and your loved ones. It is important to seek the advice of a real estate attorney before deciding which is best for you. If you have any questions about ways to hold title property, or other real estate issues please contact our office. 

Consult a Massachusetts Attorney for Advice on a Property Transaction

How you take title to property is a crucial consideration for co-owners, and your choice can affect you for years to come. Married couples should understand the benefits and disadvantages of a tenancy by the entirety before making a choice. The lawyers at Simple Title can provide guidance on home purchases and sales to individuals throughout the Boston region. We can assist people in Lynnfield, Reading Essex, Manchester, Beverly and other Massachusetts cities. Call us at 978-539-7500 for more information.