Adding Wife to Deed: I purchased a house in 2005 when I was single. I got married last year. Now I want to add my wife onto the deed. What kind of deed should I use to do this? How simple is it to use this kind of deed?


It should not be big deal to add your wife to your deed so she co-owns the house with you. There are a couple of issues or matters you should consider. The more significant question then type of deed (which should not be an issue) is the title or ownership you provide for in that deed. Here's a few issues and questions.

Title: There are many ways you and your wife can own a home:

  • You could be joint tenants with rights of survivorship. That means that you each own an undivided interest in the house and on death the survivor inherits the entire house by operation of law (that means without probate).
  • In many states (you'll have to check your state law) when a husband and wife own a primary residence (in some states other realty or even any asset) jointly they own it in a special form of joint ownership called "tenants by the entirety". This is similar to joint ownership described above but may, again depending on state law, provide asset protection benefits. If you're sued and you and your wife own the home as tenants by the entirety, your claimants cannot force the sale of the house so long as you wife is alive. That could be a huge benefit to pressure the claimants to settle for a lot less. Be careful. Tenants by the entirety may require that you and your wife acquire the property while husband and wife. Your merely adding her to the deed, while it will have the same ending title (ownership), may not meet the necessary requirements. You should consult with a local real estate attorney about this nuance.
  • You could own the home as tenants in common. This is a form of joint or co ownership in which each of you may transfer your 1/2 interest in the house as you see feet. While this may not seem appealing, if you have a taxable estate, owning a house as tenants in common is a way you can use to fund a by pass trust under your will (that's another discussion, but you can see the Glossary and Estate Q&As for more information).
  • There are other ways a husband and wife can own a home together. If you want more information there is an audio clip in the Seminar Materials section on home ownership.

Deed: There are different types of deeds which can be used, and the names of them vary by state. Your title company or real estate attorney can tell you which one to use.

Mortgage: If you have a mortgage on the house you may need lender permission to transfer title. If it is required and you don't obtain it, if the lender finds out they could call (accelerate) the mortgage. If you have a rate on your mortgage that is lower then current rates, be careful.

Property and Casualty Insurance: Review your coverage and make sure your wife is listed if you add her to the deed. Also, now that you're a family, review the amount of coverage to make sure its adequate for your new life.

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