There are various ways to hold title.
The simplest way to hold title to a property is called sole ownership. Sole ownership means that one person alone holds title to the property. This is most often used by persons who are single, but a married person can also choose sole ownership if his or her spouse is willing to sign a document renouncing any rights to the property.
Tenancy in Common
If you and another person(s) want to take ownership of property together and are unmarried, the State of Florida will presume that you are taking title as Tenants in Common. Tenants in Common co-own real estate in shares without the right of survivorship. This means that if one tenant in common dies, his or her share in the property will pass in accordance with his or her will. The surviving tenant in common will then become co-owners with the deceased tenant’s heirs. This is one of the challenges with this form of ownership. Because there is no right of survivorship, it is possible to end up co-owning real estate with someone you do not know.
Tenancy in common does not require that all owners hold equal shares in the property. However, the percentage of ownership held by each tenant in common should be specified in the deed.
Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship
This form of ownership allows more than one person to co-own a property, however, each holds full ownership of a single interest in the property. This means that, if one tenant dies, the other tenant(s) will continue to be sole owner(s) of the property, avoiding the need for probate. In Florida, this form of taking title is most commonly used for family members who wish to keep a property within the family. As joint tenants, all co-owners have equal ownership rights to the property and retain the right to occupy the entire premises.
Florida is a title theory state. This means that, if one joint tenant mortgages his or her interest in the property, the state will consider this a conveyance, and the joint tenancy will be destroyed. By default, the co-ownership will revert to tenants in common. The mortgage will be on a one-half interest in the property, and the other tenant will not be impacted.
Tenancy by the Entirety
Tenancy by the entirety is a special ownership status that is only extended to married persons. Both partners hold an identical interest in the whole property and benefit from the right of survivorship. Tenancy by the entirety is different than joint tenants with a right of survivorship because there is no risk of severance. As long as both partners are alive and still married, neither owner can break the tenancy.
This form of ownership also extends special protection from creditors. In Florida, the entirety estate cannot be breached by creditors of one spouse alone. A creditor would only be able to access a tenancy by the entirety if it is a creditor of both spouses. In the case of divorce, the tenancy by the entirety is terminated, and ownership will revert to tenancy in common.
How title is vested has important legal consequences. Please consult an attorney to determine the most advantageous form of ownership for your particular situation.