The forms of co-ownership available to unmarried LGBT couples include joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Note that while tenancy by the entirety is a common designation, it is only available to married couples. When you put both your names on a deed, you must designate the form of co-ownership that is best for both of you.
Joint tenancy automatically gives ownership of the property to the surviving partner when one of you dies. In some community property states including California, the term ‘with right of survivorship’ must be added to the joint tenancy designation to ensure that the parties intended the other party to inherit. The right of survivorship overrides any attempt to change ownership including a will. When one partner dies, there is no remaining interest to give to anyone else because all interest in the property automatically vests in the surviving partner. Both partners will have an undivided equal ownership, share equal rights to possession of the property and cannot finance or sell the property without both parties consent.
Tenancy in common property can be owned equally or with unequal shares of the home. For example, one partner could own 60 percent and the other partner 40 percent. Each partner will have the right to sell or will all or a percentage of his interest in the property to a third party. If one of the partner’s die without a will, his percentage in the property will be distributed according to intestate laws in the state of his residency.
If you own a home and decide to put your partners name on the deed, it should be kept in mind that by doing so, you are giving a gift of some percentage of the home to your partner. You will have no legal right to remove or force your partner to deed the property back to you. Adding your partner’s name to the deed could also trigger gift taxes, and could trigger the mortgage company to force you to refinance if there is a due on sale or transfer provision in the mortgage contract.
Before signing a co-ownership deed, it would be a good idea to prepare an agreement that details how expenses and ownership will be shared and what will happen to the home if you separate. While this may not seem important, if the relationship deteriorates, an agreement will help avoid major disputes.
Property laws vary between states. Always consult with a gay realtor from GayRealEstate.com or speak with a real estate attorney.