Joint Tenancy

Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAnkush Jain
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Joint Tenancy?

Joint tenancy is legal estate ownership between at least two parties with co-equal privileges and responsibilities. It ensures an equitable distribution of the profits among the tenants after selling the estate. Concerning joint tenancy vs community property, the latter is a form of ownership applicable to solely married couples with a distinct definition, agreement type, examples, and severance procedure.

Joint Tenancy

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It is suitable for business ownership, personal property, and bank and brokerage firms but is mainly used for real estate investments. Moreover, this arrangement offers the right of survivorship wherein the death of one tenant causes the allotment of their share to the other tenant(s). Married or unmarried couples, investment partners, friends, and even relatives can open a joint tenancy account for such agreements.

Key Takeaways

  • The joint tenancy definition implicates a unique type of ownership wherein two or more tenants share equal realty benefits and liabilities.
  • Though deemed fit for personal estate, bank, and business ownership, it is mostly utilized for realty investments.
  • Upon the demise of one co-owner, the premises automatically vests in the surviving one(s) under the rights of survivorship.
  • Most importantly, it is different from the other co-ownership agreement called tenancy in common. The latter certainly does not provide equal rights and responsibilities to all co-tenants.

How Does Joint Tenancy Work?

The joint tenancy offers a more convenient approach to homeownership for novice buyers and realty investors. Please note that almost anybody can enter this arrangement, be it married or unmarried couples, friends, investment partners, or relatives. In case of a complete estate sale, co-tenants must equitably split the profits.

All joint tenants certainly have unlimited and unhindered access to any part of the property. They can be at the estate, either together or individually, at any moment. Furthermore, joint tenants share a common interest in complete land ownership.

Concerning joint tenancy vs community property, the former is used by married or unmarried couples, business partners, or relatives, while the latter is exclusive to married couples. While considering joint tenancy vs community property, it is always about who your co-tenant is, your spouse, or someone else.

Each co-tenant must obtain equivalent property shares by the same contract simultaneously. In addition, they share equal budgetary responsibilities for the land, indicating equal accountability for any real estate loans.

Please note that the joint tenant may sell their estate shares only with the consent of the other tenant(s). However, share transferral leads to the severance of the joint tenancy agreement, and the new co-owner must sign a new deal called tenancy in common with the other tenant(s).

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Joint Tenancy With Right Of Survivorship

Most importantly, this type of ownership is distinctive from its counterparts, such as tenancy in common and tenancy by the entirety, owing to the right of survivorship. It certainly signifies that the stake of the deceased joint tenant is automatically moved to the surviving tenant(s).

Ever since the co-tenant’s death, the surviving joint tenant(s) certainly holds a lawfully vested interest in the deed of agreement with survivorship right and debt obligation. In addition, the right of survivorship triumphs in the dispute between the deceased’s will and rights under the joint tenancy agreement.

To clarify, it averts the probate of the estate. The last living joint tenant becomes the lone property owner and can certainly incorporate the real estate in their will to transfer ownership to the successors. As a result, it offers the benefit of permanence.

This certainly benefits the surviving co-tenant(s) by ensuring automatic estate acquisition and prohibiting co-owners from transferring shares in this agreement. Please note that it is usually applicable for commercial or residential estates managed by joint tenants.

Example

Let us understand the practicality of the concept of joint tenancy agreement through the examples below.

Example #1

Elena and Frank (joint tenants) buy an apartment through the joint tenancy contract. So, the agreement provides them with equal estate rights, shares, and responsibilities.

Regarding liabilities, both parties are equally obligated for any prospective debt settlement.

Neither Elena nor Frank can sell the apartment without mutual consent. Under the rights of survivorship, Frank will certainly be the apartment’s rightful owner after the death of Elena and the other way around. The surviving co-tenant can then transfer the shares to the heir.

Also, for example, transferring their shares to a new co-tenant will denote severance of joint tenancy, and they have to sign the agreement for tenancy in common.

Example #2

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected an application to sell a jointly owned property by one of the joint tenants, ruling that no harm had been incurred by the applicant in fulfilling her obligations towards the property. The case originated from a joint tenancy agreement for a property sought by the applicant’s brother and his spouse in May 2011. They enlisted the applicant’s assistance in purchasing the property, resulting in joint tenancy registration.

Issues arose in January 2021 when the respondent and the applicant’s brother separated, prompting the latter to vacate the property. The applicant later discovered mortgage payments being deducted from her account due to delayed payments by the respondent. Despite efforts to remove her name from the property’s title and mortgage, the respondent declined or ignored the requests. Seeking relief, the applicant applied for a property sale order, citing provisions of the Partition Act and Rules of Civil Procedure.

Advantages

Let us understand the advantages of operating with a joint tenancy account through the points below.

  • One of the primary advantages of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, which means that if one co-owner passes away, their interest in the property automatically transfers to the surviving co-owners. This can simplify the transfer of ownership and help avoid probate proceedings.
  • Joint tenancy typically involves equal ownership shares among co-owners, ensuring that each party has an undivided interest in the entire property. This can promote harmony and prevent disputes over ownership rights.
  • Joint tenancy allows for relatively simple and straightforward transfer of ownership interests. If one co-owner wishes to sell or transfer their interest in the property, they can do so without the need for consent from the other co-owners, although this may sever the joint tenancy.
  • In some jurisdictions, joint tenancy may offer creditor protection to co-owners. If one co-owner faces financial difficulties or legal liabilities, their creditors may have limited ability to seize their interest in the jointly owned property.
  • Joint tenancy may offer potential tax benefits for co-owners, such as favorable treatment for capital gains taxes upon the sale of the property or eligibility for certain tax deductions or credits related to homeownership.

Disadvantages

Despite the various advantages, there are a few factors that prove to be disadvantages of joint tenancy accounts. Let us understand them through the explanation below.

  • Joint tenancy limits individual control over the property, as decisions regarding the property must be made jointly with the other co-owners.
  • Disputes may arise if co-owners cannot agree on matters such as property maintenance, renovations, or sale.
  • Differences in opinion or lifestyle changes among co-owners can lead to conflicts and disagreements over the use, management, or disposition of the property.
  • Disagreements may escalate to legal disputes, resulting in costly and time-consuming litigation.
  • Each co-owner’s interest in the property is vulnerable to creditor claims against any individual co-owner.
  • Creditors of one co-owner may seek to enforce their claims by placing liens on the property or pursuing legal action to force a sale.
  • Upon the death of a joint tenant, their interest in the property passes automatically to the surviving joint tenants under the right of survivorship, bypassing the probate process.
  • This may lead to unintended consequences, such as disinheriting other heirs or beneficiaries who may have expected to inherit a share of the property.

Joint Tenancy vs Tenancy In Common

ParticularsJoint tenancyTenancy in common
DefinitionAn agreement with multiple joint tenants holding equivalent property shares.An agreement with multiple independent tenants holding different property shares.
Agreement typeCo-ownershipCo-ownership
Rights of SurvivorshipAutomatically createdNot automatically created
Property sharesEquivalent with the same title simultaneouslyNot necessarily equal, and tenants can certainly enter the agreement at any time
Financial accountabilityAll property liabilities are equally sharedTenants may use their shares as collateral for complete financial accountability for debts
Flexibility in an estate saleLess flexibleMore flexible
Consent of co-tenants for property saleRequiredNot required
BenefitsSecurity
Affordability
Access
Possibility to avert probate
Right of Survivorship
Ease of process
Streamlines estate purchases
The number of co-tenants may certainly vary
Different possible ownership degrees 
Estate interests may pass via the will of the co-tenant(s)
DrawbacksConflict in relationships
Additional responsibility
Control problems
Creditor issues
Replacement for will
Frozen bank accounts
All co-tenants are equally accountable for taxes and debt
No automatic rights of survivorship
One tenant may force a property sale
Transferral of individual sharesNot possiblePossible
Suitable clienteleBusiness partnersMarried couple

Joint Tenancy Vs Community Property

Let us understand the distinctions between joint tenancy account and community property through the comparison below.

Joint Tenancy

  • Joint tenancy involves co-ownership of property by two or more individuals, with each party holding an undivided interest in the entire property.
  • Upon the death of a joint tenant, their interest in the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants under the right of survivorship.
  • Joint tenancy is typically created through a specific deed or title document that specifies the intention to create joint tenancy.
  • Co-owners can transfer their interest in the property during their lifetime through a sale, gift, or other conveyance, but doing so may sever the joint tenancy.

Community Property

  • Community property refers to property acquired by married couples during the marriage, excluding inheritances or gifts received by one spouse.
  • Each spouse has an equal ownership interest in community property, regardless of which spouse acquired it or whose name is on the title.
  • In community property states, upon the death of one spouse, their share of community property typically passes to the surviving spouse, while separate property may be subject to distribution according to state laws or the terms of a will.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is Joint Tenancy With Right Of Survivorship?

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is certainly a variation of co-ownership, offering the tenants the right to live; for example, it ensures property transferal upon the demise of a co-tenant. In other words, it refers to the automatic transfer of property shares to the surviving tenant(s) after the demise of the other tenant(s). To clarify, couples or business partners generally utilize it to own assets with each other.

How To Sever A Joint Tenancy?

Please note that there are three methods for severance of joint tenancy,
#1 – Firstly, it can be done through mutual agreement
#2 – Secondly, a joint tenant acting on their share may lead to the severance of the agreement, or
#3 – Thirdly, joint tenants can sever the agreement via mutual conduct

What Is A Disadvantage Of Joint Tenancy Ownership?

Above all, there are several disadvantages of joint tenancy ownership,
#1 – Additional responsibility
#2 – Exposure to the creditors
#3 – Lack of independence
#4 – No inheritance rights
#5 – Relationship problems
#6 – Alternative for will issues
#7 – No income tax benefits
#8 – Financial issues
#9 – Documentation delays
#10 – Frozen bank accounts

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