June 8, 2024


General Attorneys

Joint Tenancy Deeds vs. Tenancy in Common Differences

3 min read

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Understanding Joint Tenancy Deeds vs. Tenancy in Common: Key Differences

When it comes to property ownership, two common forms are joint tenancy and tenancy in common. While they both involve co-ownership, there are crucial differences that property owners should be aware of before deciding on the type of ownership structure to use.

Ownership Structure: Joint Tenancy

In a joint tenancy, all owners have an equal share of the property. This means that each owner has an undivided interest in the entire property rather than a specific portion. One of the defining features of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship. This means that if one owner passes away, their share automatically transfers to the remaining owner(s) without going through probate.

Ownership Structure: Tenancy in Common

On the other hand, tenancy in common allows for unequal ownership shares among co-owners. Each owner can hold a different percentage of the property, which is typically based on their financial contribution to the purchase. Unlike joint tenancy, there is no right of survivorship in tenancy in common. If one owner dies, their share of the property passes to their heirs or beneficiaries according to their will or state law.

Creation and Requirements: Joint Tenancy

To create a joint tenancy, the owners must acquire the property at the same time, with the same deed, and have equal ownership interests. Additionally, joint tenants must have unity of time, title, interest, and possession. This means they must acquire the property simultaneously, with the same legal document, have equal ownership interests, and possess the property jointly.

Creation and Requirements: Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common, on the other hand, can be created without the need for equal ownership interests or acquiring the property at the same time. Co-owners can hold different percentages of ownership, and they do not need to possess the property jointly. Each tenant in common has the right to transfer or sell their share of the property without the consent of the other owners.

Rights and Responsibilities: Joint Tenancy

In joint tenancy, each owner has an equal right to use and occupy the entire property. They are also jointly responsible for property taxes, mortgage payments, and maintenance costs. However, if one owner decides to sell their share of the property, it can sever the joint tenancy, converting it into a tenancy in common with the new owner.

Rights and Responsibilities: Tenancy in Common

In tenancy in common, each owner’s rights are based on their percentage of ownership. This means that co-owners with larger ownership shares have more decision-making power regarding the property. Additionally, tenants in common can freely transfer or sell their ownership interest without affecting the others.

Estate Planning Considerations: Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is often used as a form of estate planning because of the right of survivorship. When one owner passes away, their share automatically transfers to the surviving owner(s) without the need for probate. This can simplify the transfer of ownership and avoid potential disputes among heirs.

Estate Planning Considerations: Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common may be preferred in certain estate planning scenarios where co-owners want more control over their ownership shares. With tenancy in common, each owner can designate their share to specific beneficiaries in their will, ensuring that their portion of the property goes to the intended recipients.

Legal Implications: Joint Tenancy

From a legal standpoint, joint tenancy can offer simplicity and efficiency in property transfer. However, it’s essential for joint tenants to understand that severing the joint tenancy requires all owners’ consent. Additionally, creditors of one joint tenant may be able to place liens on the property, potentially affecting other owners.

Legal Implications: Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common provides more flexibility in terms of ownership shares and transfers. Co-owners can freely sell or transfer their shares without needing consent from other owners. However, this flexibility can also lead to potential conflicts if co-owners have differing views on property management or sales.


In summary, joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two distinct forms of property ownership with different rights, responsibilities, and legal implications. Property owners should carefully consider their goals, preferences, and estate planning needs when choosing between these ownership structures. Consulting with a real estate attorney or financial advisor can provide valuable guidance in making informed decisions about joint tenancy deeds vs. tenancy in common. Read more about joint tenancy deed

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