By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

Legal ownership. Although many lay persons typically use the term "title" in the context of the ownership of real estate, in particular a house, the term "title" refers to how the ownership of any asset, from a bank account to a stock certificate may be held. If the "title" to your house is joint tenants with rights of survivorship (you own it together). On the death of either joint tenant the surviving joint tenant, by operation of law, owns the entire property. Contrast this with title or ownership as "tenants in common" in which case on the death of one joint owner the surviving joint owner can bequeth his or her interest. You may own the title to the property (it is your land). Title has a wide range of ramifications in a host of legal areas. If you are purchasing a business or real estate your attorney will take a number of steps to make certain that you get "title" or ownership of the assets. In an estate planning and probate context the manner in which an asset is owned determines who will inherit that asset and whether your will has any impact on who inherits the asset. See also "clear title".

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