Real Estate Contract - Ways of holding Title

Common Ways of Holding a Real Estate Title

When purchasing a property, one of the most crucial decisions you must make is how to hold the title. Title holding is the way in which a property owner has legal ownership over a piece of real estate. There are several ways to hold a real estate title, each with its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will look at the most common ways of holding a real estate title, including sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenancy in common, and community property. We will also explore the differences between these ways of holding a title, as well as their various applications in different US states.

Sole Ownership

Sole ownership is the simplest and most common way of holding a real estate title. In this arrangement, a single person or entity has legal ownership over the property. Sole ownership is ideal for individuals who want to have full control over their property, as it provides complete decision-making power over the use, sale, or transfer of the property. In most states, sole ownership is automatic when the property is only in the name of one person. However, in some states, it may require additional documentation, such as a will or a trust, to ensure that the property transfers to the appropriate heirs in case of the owner’s death.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is a way of holding a real estate title by two or more people, where each person has an equal share of the property. If specified as Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship, when one owner dies, their share automatically transfers to the other owner(s) without the need for probate proceedings. In most cases, when people say Joint Tenancy, they might be referring to Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship. 

Joint tenancy is popular among married couples, business partners, or any two people who want to own a property together. However, this arrangement requires a significant level of trust between the co-owners, as each one has the power to sell or transfer their share of the property without the others’ consent.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is a way of holding a real estate title by two or more people, where each person owns a specific percentage of the property. In this arrangement, co-owners can have unequal ownership percentages, and each one has the right to sell or transfer their share of the property to whomever they choose.

Tenancy in common is ideal for people who want to own a property together but do not want to have equal ownership shares or have different ideas about the property’s use or management. However, this arrangement may require additional documentation, such as a co-ownership agreement or a partition action, to resolve disputes between co-owners. It’s very important to hash out who will be responsible for managing the property in case of such an arrangement to avoid disputes. In Spite of unequal ownership, this kind of arrangement allows for 1031 exchanges

Community Property

Community property is a way of holding a real estate title by married couples in some American states, where both spouses have an equal ownership interest in the property acquired during the marriage. In this arrangement, each spouse has the right to manage their share of the property, but they must agree on any decision that affects the property as a whole.

Community property is only recognized in a few American states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, community property laws apply to all assets acquired during the marriage, not just real estate.

Living Trusts

Holding a real estate title using a Living Trust has become a favored method for many property owners, primarily for its advantages in estate planning. By transferring the title of a property to a Living Trust, the grantor maintains control and use of the property during their lifetime while ensuring a smoother transition of assets upon their death. One of the main benefits of this method is the ability to avoid the often time-consuming and expensive probate process. Additionally, a Living Trust provides a degree of privacy, as the details of the trust are not public record like a will. This method is especially appealing to individuals with sizable estates, those with complex family situations, or those who desire greater control over how their assets are distributed after their passing. While Living Trusts are recognized in all 50 states, specific regulations and nuances can vary by state, making it crucial for property owners to consult with local legal experts when setting up a trust.

Corporation, Partnership or LLC

Holding a real estate title through a Corporation, Partnership, or LLC is a method often utilized by business entities or investors to manage and protect their assets. By placing the title under such an entity, owners can potentially limit their personal liability, gain tax advantages, and streamline management, especially in cases of joint investments. This method is particularly fitting for commercial properties, rental properties, or large real estate investments where there’s a need to safeguard personal assets or simplify the division of profits and responsibilities among multiple stakeholders. It’s worth noting, however, that this isn’t a typical way of holding the title for personal residences. Holding a personal residence under a business entity might complicate matters related to homestead exemptions, mortgage qualifications, and tax implications.

Key Differences in American States

While the four forms of ownership are recognized in most American states, the laws governing these forms can differ from state to state. For example, in community property states, only married couples can hold property as community property. However, in other states, such as Hawaii, unmarried couples can also hold property as community property. Additionally, some states have laws that favor joint tenancy or tenancy in common, making them more advantageous than sole ownership or community property. It’s very important to find out what the local laws are before deciding how to hold the title.


When purchasing a real estate property, it is essential to consider the various ways of holding a title and their implications for the property’s use, management, and transfer. Understanding the legal and tax implications of each method is critical, and consulting with professionals, such as real estate agents, lawyers, and tax specialists, can help in making informed decisions. It is essential to conduct research and ensure compliance with state laws when considering the different ways of holding real estate titles. Ultimately, a well-informed decision can provide significant benefits in terms of ownership and protection of real estate investments.

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