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DISENTANGLING FROM JOINT OWNERSHIP

Q: I own a condo with my soon-to-be-former significant other. The deed reads "joint tenants with right of survivorship." Before we go our separate ways, I need to change that. I will be moving out and plan on paying taxes and insurance until the unit is sold. She can stay as long as she likes.

What is the procedure? Do both parties need to agree on the change? Sorry, I'm uncomfortable giving my full name.

A: With the wording presently on your deed, if one of you died, the other would immediately become sole owner. It wouldn't matter what a will might say.

State laws differ on how to terminate a joint ownership. You have always had the right to sell your share, which would end the survivorship situation. You don't need your co-owner's permission.

Depending on the law in your state, you might need to sell your share to what's known as a straw man and then buy it back. At that point, you and your ex-partner would be co-owners as tenants in common. There would be no right of survivorship, and you could leave your share to any heir you chose.

You get this week's "see a lawyer" advice.

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Readers divided on tub or no tub

Recently, a reader asked if he replaced his bathtub with a walk-in shower, would that make his house harder to sell someday. I passed that on with the question: "Would you buy a house with no tub?" And the e-mails poured in. Simple "No" or "YES!!" votes ran about 50-50. Many added comments:

- I would not buy without a tub. I have a townhome with a small tub, and it's frustrating that I can't take a really relaxing bath due to the size.

- We baby boomers are retiring, and you will see lots more replacing the tub with a nice big shower.

-Without a tub, how would we give the dog a bath? No tub is okay, but the shower would need to be large enough for two people.

- After a tiring day, standing in a shower is not my idea of relaxing.

- I live in a senior community, and 95 percent of us have not used our tubs since we moved in.

- Well, put it this way: You can always take a shower in a bathtub, but you can't take a bath in a shower.

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Rules vary on foreclosures

Q: I'm currently looking to purchase tax deeds on some delinquent properties in my county. What are my legal rights and abilities with property law (restitution or commandeering the property) once I do this?

A: I think you're asking about the delinquent taxpayer's right of redemption. Available in some states, it's a length of time for paying off the back taxes, interest and fees, and getting the property back. If you're going to buy tax foreclosures, tax deeds, liens or certificates - whatever they're called in your area - you should have your own real estate attorney on tap. That's the person who will give local information.

Edith Lank answers questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or e-mail her at edithlank@aol.com.

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