Often, title to real property (i.e., land) is held in the names of more than one person. This blog will briefly discuss the three methods of joint ownership using Jack and Jill as our fictional owners.
Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship. If Jack and Jill hold title as "Jack and Jill, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship", Jack and Jill each owns an undivided 1/2 interest in the property. Additionally, when one of them dies, the survivor becomes the sole owner. The survivor would only need to record the death certificate of the deceased joint tenant and sole ownership would be established in the survivor. In order to create a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, the deed must clearly reflect the survivorship intention. If it does not, Jack and Jill will take title as set forth below. The preferred language is "Jack and Jill, as joint tenants with full rights of survivorship". A deed by either Jack or Jill to a third party severs the survivorship feature of the joint tenancy.
Tenants in Common. If Jack and Jill hold title simply as "Jack and Jill", each owns an undivided 1/2 interest in the property, and each is free to convey his interest in the property without the consent of the other. However, when one of them dies, his or her interest passes to his or her estate (i.e., through the probate process) and not to the other owner.
Tenants by the Entirety. If Jack and Jill are married to one another at the time they acquire title to the property, they are tenants by entirety. The fact of marriage can be established by the deed reflecting "Jack and Jill, husband and wife" or by other component evidence. A tenancy by the entirety has the element of survivorship implied. Tenants by the entiretycannot convey their respective interests in the property independently of each other.
Whenever you purchase a property with someone else, please look to this on the deed. Basically, if you want your interest in the property to go to the surviving owner, the deed should be as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" or "husband and wife". If you DO NOT want your interest in the property to pass to the surviving owner when you die, the deed would not need to say anything, just as in the above example.
If you want to learn more about avoiding probate, please see the following articles: