Couple sitting in new house after figuring out house deed.

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Deed 101– If my name is on the deed do I own the property?

Navigating house deeds and titles can be tricky. For example, if your name is on the house deed, does that mean you own the property? Trust & Will explains.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

If your name is on a deed to a house, then that means that you are the property owner. Having your name on a deed means that you have property title, which represents a set of rights you have as a homeowner. Property rights vary from state to state, but in general, your title rights give you control over how you use the property and give you the right to sell or gift the property as a part of your estate plan.

However, know that your property rights can have certain limitations. Government policies, legal enforcement, type of deed you hold, and shared property title are all examples of what could potentially limit the way in which you own property. The next section explores what your property rights include if your name is on the deed. 

What are my rights if my name is on a deed?

When your name is listed on a deed, it means that you hold title which in turn entitles you to a “bundle of rights”, or set of rights. There are some general rights that you can expect to have as a homeowner. You typically have the right of possession, meaning you have the right to possess the property; the right of control, or the right to use the property; the right of enjoyment, which represents your right to enjoy the property however you’d like; the right of disposition that allows you to sell, rent, or transfer ownership as you please; the right of exclusion, which is your right to set parameters as to who can and cannot enter or use your property.

Keep in mind that property law varies from state to state. Although this should provide you with a general idea of the rights you have if your name is on a deed, it is always best practice to check with your local laws and regulations on specific interpretations of property law. 

Further, there are also some potential limitations on your rights that can vary from circumstance to circumstance.


The first potential source of a limitation is an encumbrance. The way in which you are entitled to use a property can be limited by restrictions and covenants placed on the deed. The previous owners of the property may have encumbered the property, which can restrict your use of the property. It can also grant use of the property to another party. Unfortunately, there are certain encumbrances that stay in place no matter who owns the property. 

Local zoning laws are a perfect example of a potential encumbrance that could affect your property rights. A local law might dictate certain uses of a property, such as prohibiting the placement of mobile homes on a property or restricting the type of animals that a property owner can have. 

Financial encumbrances are also common. For example, if a lien is placed on your property, then you may be prohibited from selling your property until you’ve paid off your debt in full. 

If you’re thinking about buying a home, it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence and check your local zoning laws, as well as make sure the title is free and clear of any encumbrances that could adversely affect your rights. 

Type of deed

The type of deed used in a real estate transaction can also affect ownership rights to a property. For instance, a Trust deed that secures a loan can prohibit you from performing any chances to a property that might damage the financial lender’s interest in the property. Other types of deeds can transfer interest without providing a full warranty against possible encumbrances. If you find out that your grantor actually had no legal interest in the property, or had restricted interest, then that means that you also have no interest or limited interest in the property.

If you are buying a house, or are in the process of inheriting a house, be stringent and intentional about the type of deed being used to transfer title. Your seller or grantor will always be incentivized to use the type of deed that best serves their interests, but not necessarily yours. If you do your due diligence, you might be able to catch a situation where you are disadvantaged, thus giving you the opportunity to advocate for yourself. 

Type of ownership

The type of property ownership you’re engaged in can also limit or expand your rights. A key example of this is when you co-own property with other people. Here, without having extensive property law knowledge, you probably intuitively know that you can’t just do whatever you want with a property. You’ll need the sign-off from your co-owners for any property decision you make. For instance, if you want to sell your interest in a shared property, then you’ll need your co-owner(s)’ permission. You also don’t have the right to gift your property interest to a loved one. As a co-owner, your personal interest in a shared property will automatically go to the remaining owner or owners when you pass away.

These are a select number of examples in which an individual’s property title rights may be limited or impacted. 

Make sure house deeds are a part of your estate plan

If you arrived in this space with the question, “If my name is on the deed, do I own the property,” we hope that you got the answers you were looking for. You may have even come away with more information than you had intended.

The overarching takeaway to this guide is to point out the complexities of property ownership. Even in the more straightforward cases in which you are the clear, sole owner of a property, your rights might still be impacted by things that are out of your control. Examples might include local laws and other types of encumbrances. 

There are also more complex cases, such as when there are multiple owners of a property, or when you encounter financial trouble and your rights become more limited. 

Whatever your situation may be, it is critical that you understand how much interest you hold in your property, and the manner in which you hold interest. The type of deed used is a helpful indicator of your property ownership structure, your interest, your rights, and any applicable encumbrances and limitations to those rights.

While you are taking the trouble to examine your deed and understand your property rights, also consider taking the extra step to verify that your deeds are part of your estate plan. That’s because your estate plan should address your assets and property. Further, you’ll want to make sure that the way in which you plan to bequeath your property is aligned with your property rights. For instance, there’s no use in bequeathing your house to your step-child if your home is co-owned by your spouse. Understanding your property rights is an integral aspect of planning your estate. 

Should you need any support in your estate planning efforts, Trust & Will is here for you! Our user-friendly platform has made it easy for individuals like you to establish, review, and update their estate plan so their property remains protected. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!

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