Adding a Name to a Title

Q: How do you go about adding a name to a house deed? The house in question is owned by my life partner, and she purchased it last year.

We split all the expenses on the house in half, from the down payment all the way through any repairs and remodeling that has been completed. We are concerned about what would happen to the house if something happened to her.

Please let us know how I may be added to the deed to protect my investment. The mortgage is only in her name.

A: Frequently people buy a home and then decide that they should be added to the title to the property. It is quite easy to add a person to the title. You need to have the current owner of the home draft and execute a new deed transferring one half of the title in the home to you.

While the documentation is easy and in some parts of the country the preparation and recording of the document may only cost about one hundred dollars, you may have to be cautious in other parts of the country. Some states may tax the transfer. Other states may have additional requirements and forms that need to be filed.

If your life partner and you cannot marry or do not wish to marry, you may wish to talk to an attorney that can handle a domestic partnership and help you with one. A domestic partnership agreement would detail how each of you would hold the title to the home, what would happen in case either one of you were to die, and what would happen if you should decide to spit up and want to sell your share.

In some instances, the attorney may decide to recommend that you set up living trusts for your ownership interest in the home. A living trust is a document that sets up a trust that would hold the ownership interest in the home and other of your assets, in case of your death you would avoid probate proceedings and could also assist you in your estate planning.

Finally, if all you want to do is hold title together, you will have the choice of holding title with your life partner as joint tenants with rights of survivorship (if either of you die, the property automatically transfers to the other) or as tenants in common with each of you owning fifty percent ownership of the home (if either of you die, your interest in the home would transfer in accordance with the terms of your will or as provided for under state law).

Be sure to talk to your accountant, attorney, or tax advisor to make sure a gift tax is not triggered when your name is added to the title.


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