One of the most common questions young couples ask is about how they should hold titles when unmarried. Put simply, when they purchase a property, they need to decide the legal structure in which they’ll own it.
How unmarried couples hold titles in Florida can have a significant impact on what happens in scenarios such as a death or break-up. Although many unmarried couples try to avoid thinking of the worst, it’s for their own protection to hold title in the most appropriate way.
What Ways Can Unmarried Couples Hold Title in Florida?
Title agents will usually ask unmarried couples how they want to take title. When you buy property as an individual, things are usually quite obvious – as you’ll state you wish to take title as a ‘single person’ ‘married person’.
But when you’re buying a property with someone else that is not married to you, there are various options.
In most cases, unmarried couples can hold title in the following three ways:
- Tenants-in-common (TIC)
- Joint tenants with full rights of survivorship (JTWROS)
- Tenant by the entireties (TBE)
You should always consult a Florida Real Estate Ownership attorney first before making any decisions.
Now, let’s explain what each type of title for unmarried couples means:
Tenants in Common for Unmarried Couples
The default way for unmarried couples to hold title in Florida is ‘tenants in common’, unless you state otherwise.
Tenants in common is a type of title where the couple will share ownership rights and each control a percentage of the property.
When a tenant in common dies, their share of the property will pass to their estate or their chosen beneficiary.
- Each partner has ownership interests in the property.
- They can own equal or different percentages of the property.
- Although they may have different ownership percentages, a tenant may not claim ownership of a specific part of the property.
- Tenants can bequeath their percentage of the property to anyone after their death.
‘Joint Tenants With Full Rights of Survivorship’ for Unmarried Couples
Another way that unmarried couples can hold title in Florida is to take title jointly as ‘joint tenants with full rights of survivorship.
This title of ownership gives each person an equal share of the property and the right to inherit their partner’s total share of the property after their death.
- Each person has equal rights to the property and has survivorship rights if their partner dies.
- JTWROs can only be used if the owners purchase the property at the same time and have an equal share of the property.
This type of ownership could be beneficial for long-term partners who clearly have a long-standing and tested relationship but have no desire to get married. However, it may not be suitable for unmarried young couples, as it could cause significant complications if you break up.
As always, you should first consult a Florida real estate ownership attorney for expert advice specific to your circumstances.
Another alternative that unmarried couples could consider for holding title in Florida is ‘sole ownership’.
This route could be considered simpler or far more complicated depending on how the relationship goes.
One person in the relationship could take sole ownership of the property, gaining full legal power to sell or will away the property – even if their partner contributed to its purchase.
This option can allow you to save on taxes, avoid creditors or avoid credit issues.
The Risks of Sole Ownership
However, sole ownership for unmarried couples is inherently risky and is strongly not recommended in most cases.
If, for example, your boyfriend is the one named on the deed and you have a break-up, then they can sell the house and pocket the money without you having any say in the matter (even if you helped fund the purchase!)
More so, if they die early and you weren’t named in their will, you’d have no legal right to the property.
If you’re true love-birds, it might not seem like this could happen, but things tend to get very sour quickly when a break-up happens. You would be at risk of gaining nothing from a sale.
What Happens if You Don’t Name Both Owners on the Deed?
If you only list one person on the deed, you can consider signing a separate contract that details the actual interests of both parties.
You should always consult a Florida real estate ownership attorney first.
One mistake here can create a plethora of issues, including those with the tax authorities. Creditors can accuse you of trying to conceal assets from them, or you may be blocked from deducting your mortgage contributions if you sell the property in the future.
Should I Speak to a Florida Real Estate Ownership Attorney?
We highly advise that any unmarried couples considering how to hold title in Florida first contact a Florida real estate ownership attorney. These decisions are complex and can have significant tax and loan implications.
The last thing you want to do is make a mistake that costs you financially or places unnecessary stress and strain on your relationship.
Is It Time to Pop the Question?
Unmarried couples looking to buy property should consider whether it’s time to think of marriage. While we’re not here to offer relationship advice, it is advised that you almost always wait until you’re married before buying property together.
Title and tax issues vary significantly once you’re married and can protect you both from losing out if the relationship goes bad.
Contact a Real Estate Attorney in Florida for Real Estate Contracts
If you’re unsure how to hold title as an unmarried couple in Florida or need expert advice over ownership decisions, then contact our Florida real estate ownership attorneys today.
Our attorneys, Howard Ross, Andrew Pardun and Robert Kapusta at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. have extensive experience and will review your circumstances and provide advice on which type of title is best for you, before helping you draft a contract to protect your future.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.