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Gay Marriage and Homeownership

One of the benefits to being married is that in many states, including the District, Maryland and Virginia, couples can choose to take title to their home as "tenants in the entirety." It means that each person is 100 percent owner of the house. If one dies, the house is automatically owned by the survivor without the need for probate. And it's much more difficult for a creditor (aside from the IRS) to take away the home because of the non-mortgage debts of only one owner. An irresponsible spouse can't gamble away the house; a spiteful spouse can't sell it out from under the other. In happily-ever-after land, those problems should never come up, but in the real world, they sometimes do, and this kind of ownership is a great protection.

More gay couples who marry elsewhere and live in Washington, D.C. -- and those thinking of moving here -- will probably be able to take advantage of that protection soon. Yesterday, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. The District already allows civil unions that permit partners to hold property as tenants by the entirety.

Yesterday's action still requires another vote, and Congress always has a say over the District's affairs, so it's not a done deal. But it's a big step closer.

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  April 8, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Buying  | Tags: buying a home, civil union, gay marriage, homeownership, title  
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Please check your statement that unmarried couples may create a tenancy by the entirety in Virginia. That conflicts with everything I've read elsewhere: if you can point to a source, I'd be very interested to see it.

Generally, the unmarried couple's answer to tenancy by the entirety is joint tenancy, which offers similar estate benefits but lacks the protection from creditors.

Posted by: paisleyfish | April 8, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

My apologies for the above comment, I completely misread the sentence. Sorry!

Posted by: paisleyfish | April 8, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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