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Protecting jointly owned real estate after divorce

As a major life event, divorce can have significant effects on all areas of one's life. While divorce settlements often focus on splitting up liquid assets, property division can also affect a couple's real estate holdings. Without the proper steps, someone undergoing divorce could lose the property he or she owns.

When a couple purchases real estate before getting married, they may obtain a title called "tenancy by the entirety." This allows both spouses to be named on the deed. Following divorce, however, any such status is dissolved automatically. Any owned property is now owned by tenants in common, according to the deed.

This means that any creditor judgments against one spouse also go against his or her interest in owned real estate. This makes it crucial for divorcing couples to understand their deed and know whether any existing or forthcoming judgments might affect their ownership of real estate.

A divorcing couple should review the deeds on any property they own to ensure they are properly titled and named. Deeds should be publicly available and are free to access in Maryland. It is also important to understand how deed ownership is changed in divorce. In a case where a property is owned as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" and one party dies, the property passes to the surviving owner. If the real estate is owned as tenants in common following a divorce, this does not happen, making it important for the surviving party to take action to secure the property. Speaking to an experienced divorce attorney may be helpful.

Source: The Washington Post, "To protect real estate assets, be prepared," Harvey S. Jacobs, Aug. 26, 2011

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