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Types of Home Ownership

Fee Simple

The most common form of ownership, when a homeowner purchases a home, is the fee simple absolute. The holder of a title in fee simple has full possessory rights now and in the future for an infinite duration. There are no limitations on its inheritability. The holder of the estate can sell the entire estate or any part of it and dispose of it by will at time of death. When a condominium or townhouse is purchased, the owner typically purchases the residential unit in fee simple and obtains the right to use the common areas. Each unit has its own tax bill, deed, mortgage and ownership rights but shares in the maintenance of the common areas.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

In this type of title each owner holds an undivided share of the estate. There is a right of survivorship which means on the death of one joint owner, the surviving owner or owners retain an undivided right to the entire estate, which is not subject to the rights of the heirs of the deceased co-owner.

Tenancy in Common

In a title held as a tenancy in common, each owner has an undivided interest in the entire property. Each tenant has the right to possession of the whole property. There is no right of survivorship. Each tenant has a distinct proportionate interest in the property, which passes by succession. There is a presumption that a conveyance to two or more persons is a tenancy in common.

Tenancy in the Entirety

This is a marital estate, which can only be created between a husband and wife. It is similar to a joint tenancy except that the right of survivorship cannot be destroyed, since severance by one tenant is not possible. An existing marriage is requisite for a tenancy by the entirety. In many states there is a presumption that a tenancy by the entirety is created in any conveyance to a husband and wife. This type of title is considered somewhat archaic and the majority of states have abolished this type of tenancy, favoring instead that the couple take title to the property as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

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