How to add a family member to a real estate title

Q: Three years ago, my spouse and I purchased a home in my name with the expectation that once she improved her credit rating, her name would be added. She's lived up to her end of the bargain, so what steps do we take to add her name to the title?
E.B., via e-mail

A: On the face of it, you have a fairly simple task, says Jerry P. Boisseau, a certified financial planner in Ocean County, N.J.. The only thing that really needs to be done is to notify the municipality that you want to change the title/ownership of the house from your name to joint names (both spouses). They'll send you any required paperwork.

The two most common ways to retitle your home would be "Joint Tenants With Rights Of Survivorship" or "Joint With Tenancy In Common." Different states have different laws regarding home ownership, so you might check with a lawyer who can advise which route to go on titling, especially since it should be part of your estate planning.

Titling one of your largest assets shouldn't be taken lightly, says Mr. Boisseau. Once this has been accomplished, you should notify the mortgage holder of the change if you still owe money on the home, he says. Don't forget to inform the insurance company as well.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for teaching teens about financial planning? Perhaps there is a kit or booklet that is available free or for a nominal fee.
C.H., via e-mail

A: There are plenty of websites and resources waiting to help teenagers learn about money. Mutual fund operator Columbia Funds sponsors, which has tips for teachers, parents, teens, and preteens. The website of consumer advocacy group, Consumer Action (, also contains information to help young people learn about finances. Budding entrepreneurs can check out

Then there is the National Endowment for Financial Education's website,, which Brian Jones, a certified financial planner in Fairfax, Va., thinks is a great spot. It has a lot of material for younger folks as well as a site dedicated solely to teens (

While these are excellent resources, the single best resource remains good old mom and dad, Mr. Jones says. "Talking to your kids about financial planning is no less important than talking to your kids about drugs," he says. "Drugs ruin lives; credit cards can, too."

Talk with your kids to learn what they perceive their needs to be, Jones says. Teens probably don't need the comprehensive estate plan or investment strategy that adults require, so you can focus on their simpler needs and priorities.

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