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Joint Tenants – Tenants in Common or With rights of Survivorship

The term “joint tenants” is very deceiving and very often used incorrectly. There are basically three types of joint tenancies, and simply using the term “joint tenants” leaves it open for misinterpretation.  By definition, a joint tenancy is the ownership of real or personal property by two or more persons in which each owns an undivided interest in the whole.

There are three forms of joint tenancies: Tenants in Common, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship, and Joint Tenants by the Entireties.  All three are described below.

Joint tenancy is the ownership by two or more persons of the same property. The individuals, who are called joint tenants, share equal ownership of the property and have the equal, undivided right to keep or dispose of the property. Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (sometimes stated as “jtros“) provides that if any one of the joint tenants dies, the property automatically goes to the survivors.  This would often be the case when a parent wants to add their adult child to the deed in an attempt to avoid probate.  If one of the joint tenant conveys their interest in the property to a third party, and the other joint tenant does not consent to that conveyance, the ownership is automatically converted to “tenants in common” and the joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is dissolved.

Tenants by the Entireties is very, very similar to jtros.  The only difference is that it only applies to a married couple, or a civil union couple, AND it happens automatically when two people are married or a civile union couple.  In other words, if the property is owned by Gary Clark and Randee Clark, and they are married, the one that outlives the other gets the property automatically.  The deed or bank account does not need to say “tenants by the entireties,” or “husband and wife, ” or “jtros.”  The survivor gets the property by the mere fact that they are legally married.  If that is not what they want to happen by operation of law, the deed or bank account must specifically say, “as tenants in common.”

Tenants in Common, on the other hand, means that each own their shares independently of the other, and upon the death of one, that share does not go to the survivors.  Rather, it goes to the deceased partners heirs incordance with their Last Will and Testament, or if they don’t have a Will, by Intestate Succession.   This would often be used for business partners, or brothers and sisters that inherited the parents’ shore house, or partners buying a boat together. Each has the use of the entire thing, but are equa owners just the same.

If you are really curious and want to learn more, go to http://estate.findlaw.com/planning-an-estate/whats-the-difference-between-joint-tenants-with-survivorship-and-.html