Q: How do you go about adding a name to a house deed?
The house in question was purchased last year in Connecticut, and my life partner owns it. All of the house expenses have been shared equally from the beginning, including my contributing half of the down payment, all repairs and the remodeling work we’ve completed since moving in.
We’re concerned about what would happen to the property if something happened to her. How can I protect the cash I’ve invested in the property? The mortgage is in her name only.
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 deed may only cost about one hundred dollars — you may have to be more 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 you and your life partner cannot marry or do not wish to marry, you may wish to talk to an attorney who frequently handles domestic partnership agreements to help you draft 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 cases, 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 to the home in your name in addition to your life partner, 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).
Please consult with an attorney for more detailed information. You may also wish to consult with an accountant or your tax preparer to be sure this does not trigger a gift tax.
October 29, 2004