As more people are living together while not married, they are increasingly buying real estate in joint names. One way this is done is to hold the property as “Tenants in Common”–sometimes abbreviated TIC. One example of how title is held in that case would be as follows: “John Smith, a single man, and Jane Jones, a single woman.” In this case, title achieves one objective: each owns an undivided one-half interest in the property. However, as most estate attorneys will acknowledge, this also has some pitfalls.
The problem with holding property as TIC is that if one of the parties dies, a probate is necessary in order to get the property out of that person’s name. This could mean both unnecessary time and expense in having to probate the property. Meanwhile, the surviving party cannot sell or mortgage the property. So, in the example given above with John Smith and Jane Jones, if John dies, Jane cannot sell the property until a probate is opened and the property is transferred by the estate.
An attorney can advise on ways to get around the problem posed by TIC ownership. One answer could be titling the property as “joint tenants with right of survivorship.” Another answer might be to set up a Trust. The goal would be to achieve the owners’ goal of joint ownership but not end up in probate.