When you purchase real property with a partner such as your spouse, family member, or business associate, by law you have options on how to possess that property jointly. There are three types of joint possession: Tenancy in Common, Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is a type of joint ownership where two more people ("tenants in common") own part of the property. Tenants in Common: 

  • Can own the property in equal or unequal shares
  • Have the right to use the whole of the property, not just their share of it
  • Pass on their share of the property to their heirs when they die

Tenancy in common is the most common type of joint possession. If the type of possession is unclear, most courts will assume tenancy in common.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is very similar to tenancy in common except that when a joint tenant dies the remaining joint tenants inherent his share, not his heirs. Joint tenancy exists only when these four conditions are met: 

  • All the tenants bought the property at the same time
  • All the tenants have an equal share
  • All the tenants are on the title of the property
  • All tenants must have the same estate

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety is a form of joint ownership that is recognized in about half the states. This form of ownership applies to husbands and wives and treats them as a single entity. Tenants by the entireties: 

  • Inherit the whole of the property when the other tenant dies
  • Cannot sell any part of the property without the other tenant’s consent

Which Type of Joint Possession Should You Choose?

Depending upon your needs of the property and relation to your other co-owners, each type of co-ownership has its advantages and drawbacks. Consulting an experienced real property lawyer will help you find the right type of joint possession for you.