Author: Thais Strong

Marital Status and Holding Title

When it comes to selling your property, getting that contract signed and sent to your local title company is the first step to a smooth closing. To ensure the process goes as effortlessly as possible, there are few additional things to keep in mind when you put your John Hancock on that very important sheet of paper.

Marital Status

We often see this left off the initial contract, but it is very significant, especially for the seller. The popular maxim- “what’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours”- is a good way of understanding why indicating marital status is so important. The State of Kansas recognizes that spouses have rights to real estate through what is termed marital interest. Even if you bought a property in your name individually, your spouse has an interest in that property and must participate in the future sale.  Therefore, we require disclosure of both parties’ marital status.  This allows us to ensure any married persons’ spouses are involved in order to pass clear title.

Taking Title

There are two common ways of taking title when buying real estate and it’s crucial that your contract indicates how you intend to hold title.

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship

The most well-known way of taking title is by Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship, also known as JTWROS. This means that the two (or more) people buying a property will have full ownership interest upon the death of any others who are on the deed.  There are no restrictions on who can take title in this manner: it could be you and your spouse as a married couple, or it could be you and your three siblings. The surviving title holder(s) automatically receives the interest of the other title holder upon their death.

Tenants in Common

The second common way of holding title is as Tenants in Common.  Whoever receives interest in this manner retains their rights to the property for their heirs or whoever they choose to pass it to. For example, Bob and Joe, identical twin brothers, buy a few hundred acres of land with the intention of starting up a cattle ranch, taking title as Tenants in Common. Rather quickly, Bob discovers he is much better suited for his old Title examiner job in the city and wants out. Joe loves it, however, and refuses. Bob decides to sell his portion of interest anyways. He cannot transfer Joe’s rights, only his own, so whoever he sells to, will only have a 50% interest in that property. The interest in the land is split, and will continue this way, unless one of the interest holders deeds his interest to the other, or both of them to a common third party.

To wrap up

An important conclusion from this is that your marital status does not determine the way in which you take title. Therefore, we require both pieces of information on the contract. In Kansas, if the deed does not specify how title is to be held, it is automatically considered tenants in common.  It is important to clarify the way you desire to take title as married couples generally opt to take title as JTWROS to ensure that their spouse receives their interest in full at one’s passing.  Similarly, if marital status is not stated on the deed, it leaves the door open to issues down the road, such as claims of interest from a past untitled spouse.  Keeping these things in mind will be helpful when you are buying or selling real estate.

If you or your clients have questions about marital status or vesting on a current or upcoming transaction, please give us a call! It’s our job to help.