What Is Joint Tenancy?


Joint tenancy is a legal arrangement where multiple individuals co-own a property with equal rights and responsibilities. This article delves into the intricacies of joint tenancy, explaining its benefits, drawbacks, creation process, financial implications, severance methods, and how it compares to tenancy in common. Discover the rights of survivorship, the nuances of property management, and the considerations for both joint tenants and potential creditors. By understanding the complexities of joint tenancy, you can make informed decisions about property ownership.

What is joint tenancy?

The term “joint tenancy” refers to a legal arrangement in which two or more people own a property together, each with equal rights and obligations. Joint tenancies can be created by married and non-married couples, friends, relatives, and business associates.

This legal relationship creates what is known as a right of survivorship. If one owner dies, their interest in the property is directly passed on to the surviving party(s) without having to go through probate or the court system.

How joint tenancy works

Joint tenancy is a form of property ownership associated with real estate. Parties enter a legally-binding agreement through a deed. For instance, an unmarried couple purchases a house and opts for joint tenancy. The deed names both owners as joint tenants.

Each party has a claim to the property, sharing benefits and responsibilities. Renting out the home or selling it entitles each party to a 50% share in profits. Expenses, including mortgage payments and taxes, are also shared.

Rights of survivorship

Joint tenancy creates a right of survivorship. When one person dies, the other assumes full ownership, bypassing probate. Joint tenancy’s scope extends beyond real estate, applicable to businesses and accounts.

Creating joint tenancy

Creating joint tenancy typically requires four elements: time, title, interest, and possession. All joint tenants should acquire ownership simultaneously through the same legal document. This ensures shared ownership structure.

Time indicates joint tenants acquire ownership interests concurrently. Title mandates joint tenants’ ownership acquisition through the same legal document. Interest ensures equal property share among co-owners. Possession grants equal access to and use of the entire property.

Financial implications of joint tenancy

Joint tenancy carries several financial aspects. Owners share property costs, mortgage payments, and maintenance. Property taxes, repairs, and improvements are equally distributed. Income derived from the property is shared based on ownership percentages.

Gains from property sale and capital gains taxes apply. Taxes’ impact depends on local laws, ownership duration, and ownership share.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Avoids probate, ensuring a seamless transfer of ownership.
  • Shared financial responsibility for the property.
  • Potential complications in case of divorce.
  • Surviving tenant gains all assets, affecting inheritance.

Severing joint tenancy: understanding your options

Joint tenancy, a form of property co-ownership, can be altered through various methods to suit changing circumstances or preferences. The process of severing joint tenancy involves dissolving the joint ownership arrangement, paving the way for different ownership structures. There are three primary avenues through which joint tenancy can be severed: voluntary agreement, conveyance, and partition actions.

Voluntary agreement

One way to sever joint tenancy is through a voluntary agreement among the co-owners. This agreement transforms the joint tenancy into a tenancy in common arrangement. In a tenancy in common, each co-owner has a distinct and transferable share in the property, without the automatic right of survivorship. This option offers more flexibility in property disposition and allows each owner to control their share independently.


Conveyance involves transferring the ownership share of one joint tenant to a third party. This effectively removes that tenant from the joint tenancy arrangement, leaving the remaining co-owners as joint tenants. The new owner may either become a joint tenant with the existing co-owners or hold their share as a tenant in common. Conveyance can be a strategic move for those seeking to reallocate ownership or bring in new partners.

Partition actions

In certain situations where disputes arise or conflicting interests emerge among joint tenants, partition actions may come into play. A partition action is a legal process initiated by one or more co-owners to request the division or sale of the property. This action is typically ordered by a court and aims to resolve disagreements by distributing the property’s value or physically dividing the property among the co-owners.

Comparing joint tenancy and tenancy in common

When deciding between joint tenancy and tenancy in common, it’s crucial to consider your long-term goals and preferences for property ownership. While joint tenancy offers the advantage of right of survivorship, where surviving co-owners automatically inherit the deceased’s share, tenancy in common provides more flexibility and control over how property shares are managed and transferred.

Tenancy in common allows for ownership percentages to be defined, enabling unequal ownership distribution if desired. Additionally, shares in a tenancy in common can be traded, allowing owners to buy, sell, or gift their portion independently. Upon the death of a tenant in common, their share is transferred according to their will or local laws, avoiding the automatic transfer common in joint tenancy.

Exploring joint tenancy with right of survivorship

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship is a specialized form of joint ownership that emphasizes equal ownership among co-owners. In this arrangement, when one joint tenant passes away, their share automatically transfers to the surviving joint tenants without the need for probate. This streamlined transfer process can be advantageous in terms of efficiency and cost savings.

However, it’s important to understand that joint tenancy with right of survivorship limits the ability to designate different beneficiaries for specific shares. If you’re considering this form of ownership, it’s essential to evaluate whether its benefits align with your overall estate planning objectives.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between joint tenancy and tenancy in common?

Joint tenancy involves equal co-ownership with a right of survivorship. Tenancy in common allows ownership percentages and follows a will upon death.

Can creditors pursue the property to collect debts from one joint tenant?

Yes, creditors can place a lien on the property or force its sale to collect debts from a joint tenant.

What happens if one joint tenant stops contributing to property expenses?

If a joint tenant stops contributing, others may need to cover their share to avoid default. Legal action might be necessary.

Can joint tenants add new co-owners to the property?

Generally, joint tenants acquire interests simultaneously. Adding new co-owners post-purchase may change the arrangement.

How many joint tenants are allowed in a single property?

Joint tenancy can have two or more joint tenants. Equal ownership shares are essential.

What is joint tenancy with right of survivorship?

It’s a form of ownership where each party shares equal rights. If one dies, their share goes to the other joint tenants.

What are the advantages of joint tenancy?

Joint tenancy avoids probate, ensuring smooth ownership transfer. Financial responsibility is shared.

What are the disadvantages of joint tenancy?

Complications in case of divorce and lack of control over asset distribution are disadvantages.

Key takeaways

  • Joint tenancy involves co-ownership with equal rights and obligations.
  • Right of survivorship ensures seamless property transfer upon an owner’s death.
  • It differs from tenancy in common, where a deceased tenant’s share goes to heirs.
  • Joint tenancy can be terminated unilaterally, affecting other tenants.
View article sources
  1. Joint tenancy – Cornell Law School
  2. Joint Tenancy – Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office
  3. What Are Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) – SuperMoney
  4. Tenancy In Common (TIC): A Flexible Form of Joint Ownership – SuperMoney
  5. 7 Types of Real Estate Ownership 2023 Analysis – SuperMoney