How To Arrange Co-Ownership of Real Property

Be very careful about putting someone else on title to your real property other than your spouse.

I frequently hear from clients who have encountered problems because they took title to a house, car, or other asset with a child, family member or friend. These clients call me because their interest in the property has been complicated by either the separate judgments or other legal problems of the co-owner or there is a deterioration in the social relationship between co-owners.

Last week, for instance, a caller told me that he put his ex-girlfriend on the title to his house, but that they had since split up and the girlfriend refused to pay her share of the mortgage. He wanted to know how to get control of the house title so he could sell the property.

There is no easy solution. The girlfriend has an equal legal interest in the home. I told the caller he would probably have to file a lawsuit to determine title or resolve the girlfriend’s interest. If the girlfriend paid part of the down payment, taxes, or any ongoing expenses she may have at least an equitable interest.

If you are considering co-owning a property with anyone other than a spouse please consider a written agreement that sets forth in advance each owner’s responsibilities to pay for the house and a fair way to separate co-ownership in the future. Often, ownership though a limited liability company or partnership with a customized written agreement is appropriate.

Last updated on May 22, 2020

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