Home Ownership as Joint Tenants
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Home Ownership as Joint Tenants
When two or more people purchase property together, they become co-owners of the property. The rights and duties of such co-owners are determined by the type of co-ownership that arises after the sale of real property. Co-ownership may be specified in:
- The buyers’ offer to purchase the real property
- The actual agreement to buy and sell
- The Deed
What Are the Different Forms of Co-Ownership?
Depending on the situation, one of the three main types of co-ownership may arise:
- Joint Tenancy
- Tenancy in Common
- Tenancy by the Entirety
Each of these "tenancies" or co-ownerships is associated with particular rights and duties. Each must be triggered by certain requirements. In case of ambiguity, courts usually favor the formation of tenancy in common.
How to Become a Joint Tenant?
A joint tenancy involves the co-ownership of real estate by two or more individuals with the clearly expressed right of survivorship. "Right of survivorship" means that after one of the owners dies, the co-owning tenant immediately gets the decedent’s interest in the property.
For example, a deed triggering joint tenancy may state, "To George and Jenny as joint tenants with the right of survivorship." If survivorship is not mentioned, many courts may assume that a tenancy in common was intended.
What Are the Legal Requirements for a Joint Tenancy?
In addition to the right of survivorship, a joint tenancy agreement must unite the so-called four "unities," or special characteristics:
- Time – each joint tenant’s right to possess the property must vest at the same time
- Title – joint tenancy must be granted to all the co-owners in the same instrument or document (a deed, a will, etc.)
- Interest – all joint tenants must end up taking the same interests in real property (i.e., equal ownership share, vesting for same duration, etc.)
- Possession – all joint tenants must have the same right to possess and enjoy the whole property
Ending a Joint Tenancy
When any of the characteristics that triggered a joint tenancy are disturbed, joint tenancy terminates and becomes tenancy in common. There are several ways to end joint tenancy:
- Actual sale or conveyance by one of the joint tenants
- A signing of valid contract for the future sale of the property
- The death of joint co-owner
- A court-ordered partition or a forced sale
What Are the Benefits of the Joint Tenancy?
The following may be some benefits associated with a joint tenancy:
- A married couple may form joint tenancy to avoid probate if a spouse dies.
- Since the decedent’s property automatically transfers to the surviving tenant, creditors of the decedent won’t be able to claim it.
- Joint tenants must pay their share of property expenses.
Seeking Legal Help
To understand joint tenancy and co-ownership issues, you should contract an experienced property attorney. The advice of a qualified attorney will ensure that you understand your rights and duties in a joint tenancy agreement.
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Last Modified: 08-24-2016 10:16 PM PDT
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