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By:  Ashley Nelson-Raut, Esquire

Over the years, it has become more common for significant others to live together prior to marriage. In fact, some couples purchase real estate prior to marriage. When two people who are not married take title to real estate together, they own it either as tenants-in-common or as joint tenants.

Tenants-in-common is a type of ownership in which each person owns his or her share of estateproperty, with no right of survivorship. This means that when one co-tenant dies, his or her interest will pass to his or her heirs at law or to the legatees under his or her Last Will and Testament. It is important to note that courts assume this type of ownership unless the Deed for the real property specifically states otherwise.

On the other hand, joint tenancy is a type of ownership in which each person has a right of survivorship. Therefore, if a joint tenant dies, then the property will be owned solely by the surviving joint tenant, regardless of the terms of the deceased joint tenant’s Last Will and Testament. The property, however, is exposed to the creditors of one owner during his or her lifetime.

Owning real estate as tenants-in-common or as joint tenants does not provide the same benefits as owning real estate as tenants by the entireties. Therefore, it is important for individuals to update the titling of their real property to reflect ownership as tenants by the entirety after they are married.

It is important to understand ownership of property as tenants by the entireties, which is a form of ownership that is only available to married couples. Some of the many benefits of owning property as tenants by the entireties are as follows:

  • Surviving spouse has a right of survivorship;
  • Avoids probate upon the death of the first spouse;
  • Neither spouse can encumber (put a mortgage on) the property without the consent of the other;
  • A spouse cannot individually convey his or her own respective interest in the property;
  • A spouse cannot individually partition his or her own respective interest in the property; and
  • The property is immune from creditors of only one spouse, with the exception of tax liens.

It is always a good idea to have an attorney review the titling of your real property, even for couples who were married when they purchased their real property. By contacting PK Law, we can assist you in reviewing the titling of your real property, updating the titling of your real property if necessary, and establishing an estate plan to ensure wealth preservation for your family. For assistance with these needs, contact a PK Law Estate Planning or Wealth Preservation Attorney or contact


Ashley N. Nelson-Raut is an Associate in PK Law’s Wealth Preservation Group. Ashley graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law, cum laude. While in law school, Ashley was an Associate Editor for the University of Baltimore Law Forum, a member of the Royal Shannonhouse III Honor Society, Historian of the Phi Delta Phi International Honor Society, and Law Scholar for ILS/Civil Procedure for Professor John Bessler. Prior to law school, Ashley attended Stevenson University, graduating summa cum laude, where she obtained her degree in Paralegal Studies. Ashley can be reached at (410)740-3149 or


This information is provided for general information only. None of the information provided herein should be construed as providing legal advice or a separate attorney client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney of your choice about your particular situation. While PK Law has taken reasonable efforts to insure the accuracy of this material, the accuracy cannot be guaranteed and PK Law makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.