Joint Tenancy Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Joint Tenancy, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Joint Tenancy?

It is the combined ownership of the real property or estate under the same title name by two or more persons, with undivided interest and full right to use part or entire portion of that property. It also has the right of survivorship, where if one of the tenant dies, the other can have the full title of the property.

History and Definition of Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy originated in the English common law, where it was an estate in land created by a single instrument that conferred equal interests to two or more individuals with the right of survivorship. Over time, Joint Tenancy became a popular mode of property ownership in the US, particularly because of its easy transferability and protection against probate.

When two or more people purchase a property together, they may hold title to the property in one of several ways, each of which can have significant legal and financial consequences. One of those ways is Joint Tenancy, which is typically used when two or more people want to split the cost of a property and share ownership.

In a Joint Tenancy, each owner shares equal responsibility for the property’s financial obligations (such as mortgage payments and property taxes), as well as equal rights to use and enjoy the property. In addition, if one owner dies, their share of the property automatically transfers to the surviving owner(s), without having to go through probate court.

Examples of Joint Tenancy

  1. Jane and Tom, a married couple, purchase a house as Joint Tenants. If either of them dies, the other person automatically inherits the entire property, without the need for probate.

  2. Three siblings inherit a plot of land from their late parents and decide to hold the property in Joint Tenancy. This way, each sibling has equal rights to the land, and if one of the siblings dies, their share automatically transfers to the surviving siblings.

Legal Terms Similar to Joint Tenancy

Other legal terms related to Joint Tenancy are:

  1. Tenancy in Common - A type of property ownership where two or more people own a piece of property together, but each owner has a separate and divisible share of the property. Unlike Joint Tenancy, there is no right of survivorship.

  2. Community Property - A property system in which both spouses have equal ownership of any property obtained during the marriage.

  3. Trusts - A legal arrangement where a person (the Trustor) gives control of their property to a third party (the Trustee) for the benefit of another person (the Beneficiary).