Should husband add his wife's name to the deed?


Most married couples own their home jointly, as husband and wife.  When they do, and one of them dies, the home will automatically belong to the surviving spouse without probate required.  Sometimes, at the time of purchase, the home is put into just one of the spouse's name and, if so, the married couple should consider doing a deed changing the title to both of their names.


Paul: Hey, thanks for taking my call. I got married a little over a year ago and my home is my name only. Now I want to add my wife’s name to the deed so that she would automatically get the home without any probate if I die.
Attorney Tom Olsen: Okay. And Paul, how long have you owned this home?
Paul: A little over two years.
Attorney Tom Olsen: And Paul, how much equity do you have in the house? How much is it worth and how much do you owe?
Paul: I only owe about half of what the home is worth.
Attorney Tom Olsen: Paul, today on this radio show, you’re my caller. I’m going to give you advice. I don’t know your wife, and I’m sure she is a lovely woman. However, I have to give you fair warning, Paul, and that is is that if you keep this home in your name only and a few years down the road you get divorced, you’re going to leave with that home. If you add her name to the deed and years down the road you get divorced, she’s going to leave with one half of that home.
I love your optimism.  You’ve been married for a year and you believe that you will be married forever and, if you tell me that’s the case, beautiful. I’m all for it, Paul. Let’s add your wife’s name to the deed. You think about that and if you want to call us, we’re happy to assist you with it. Paul, does that make sense to you?
Paul: It does, and I fully understood that before you told me that. I understand that she’s going to own half of the home once I do that. I get it, and I’m comfortable with it.
Attorney Tom Olsen: Good. Well Paul, we’d love to assist you with it. Do you have any other questions about it?
Paul: Well, is it a simple process of just going down to the tax office and having that done, or is it more complicated than that?
Attorney Tom Olsen: Well Paul, nobody at the clerk’s office is going to give you a form deed and tell you how to do it. If you looked at a typical quit claim deed or warranty deed, Paul, it looks really very simple to fill it out but there’s all kinds of mistakes that you can make on it. I do recommend that you have an attorney prepare the deed for you. I could do it for you. The fee is not much, Paul, but there will be doc stamps due the state of Florida. That’s probably going to be your biggest expense. Whether you have me do it or whether you do it by yourself, you still owe the state of Florida doc stamps on that deed.
Paul: I see. Okay. Thank you very much.
Attorney Tom Olsen: All right Paul, you’re very welcome. And you know what? I think Paul is a little upset with me that I may have said those words.
Chrissy: No, I think that it’s great that he said, “Tom, I do understand that going into this and going into the call,” but at the same time you just want to be able to give him that heads up, that that would be the case. But I also think you should say the other part of that and that is that even if the wife was never put on the deed, she would still have a right as his wife.
Attorney Tom Olsen: The wife would have rights to the home if he passed away, but not have rights if they got divorced. So, let’s talk about that in a minute. But I do want to say this in my own defense. I’ve had plenty of people over the years in my office, whether it’s the husband or whether it’s a wife, say these same words to me, “I want to add my spouse’s name to the deed.” I give them this information and they go, “Thank you, Tom. I’m so glad you told me about that. I’m going to think about it.” Especially when they’ve only been married for one year. If somebody comes to me and says, “Tom, we’ve been married for 15 or 20 years, I want to add my spouse to the deed.”
Chrissy: No problem.
Attorney Tom Olsen: No problem, yes. Here’s what we’re saying, folks. What we just talked about for Paul was what happens if he gets divorced. Even if Paul were to keep that house in his name only, if he were to pass away, his wife would have a right to a life estate in the home. She’d be allowed to live in that home for the rest of her life before something else happens to it. We are talking about what happens if they get divorced versus if Paul passes away.