Real Estate News

What it truly means to 'hold title'

Published: 06 Jan 2017

Holding title may seem like a complicated concept, so before you close on a home, you need to be clear on what it actually means. Legally, you "hold title" once you've bought the home, provided that title has transferred to you successfully and is clear of all "clouds." But there are multiple ways to actually hold title, giving you a choice based on your situation.

One factor will be whether or not you share title with another person. According to an LA Times Consumer Notebook piece from 2014, there are different circumstances where this can happen, based on which state is involved and what the relationship is between the parties involved.

For example, married spouses may define their title as community property, which gives them equal share but only applies in a handful of states. An agreement between two people who aren't spouses, on the other hand, could instead qualify for "tenants in common." While this could grant a 50-50 split to both participants, it doesn't have to, giving the two owners more flexibility.

In any case, the title is what makes it possible to establish and verify ownership. Another way to distinguish types of possession is by how the policy addresses survivorship. What happens to the title after death, and how complicated will it be?

Sole and joint owners can both deal with this question: the different joint options might actually make the process easier, since there can be a clear line of succession and division of stake. Obviously, an unclear survivorship policy also gets complicated when other claims enter the picture, which is why verifying ownership puts businesses in a good place at the beginning.

However you decide to hold it, title insurance will be a significant way to establish proper ownership when circumstances challenge this.