In every approval where the claimant owns real property, review the deed or check at the Recorder’s Office to verify property ownership. Property ownership must be verified during each subsequent re-investigation if the claimant has acquired real property since the previous investigation.
Property belonging to both husband and wife and recorded in both their names is held ‘in entirety’, that is, neither one can sell or otherwise dispose of the property, in whole or in part, without the consent of the other. When husband and wife are separated, each one’s equity in property jointly owned should be computed as one-half of the net real value of the property, at current market prices. Tenancy in entirety is dissolved by death of one of the parties, or by divorce.
When property is owned by two or more persons, other than husband and wife, or by a divorced couple, it is most often called ‘tenancy in common’. Each person owns an equal share in the property unless otherwise specified in the deed or in the will, if the property was acquired by inheritance. This means that each of three persons sharing ‘tenancy in common’ in a piece of property owns one-third of the property. Each of the owners can sell or otherwise dispose of his share in the property without consent of the others, and his share at death will be inherited by his heirs. Such an arrangement is indicated in the deed or will by the words ‘tenancy in common’ or ‘share and share alike’ or statement that the property is held jointly or that the owners have ‘joint property’.
Occasionally, property owned by two or more persons (other than husband or wife) is held in ‘joint tenancy’, that is, the property cannot be inherited by the heirs of the one who dies first but remains the property of the survivor. As long as both or all joint owners are living, the equity of each owner is the same as for a ‘tenancy in common’. Refer to the policy governing Distribution of Estate of Deceased Person and Availability of Inheritance.
If the county office is unable to verify property ownership from the deed or will, submit a copy of the deed or will to the State Office through the appropriate supervisory channels. The Program and Policy Unit will obtain a legal interpretation of the deed.