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What is a joint tenancy?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 6:35 pm
Joint tenancy is one of the ways in which two or more persons may hold legal title to real estate or personal property. A distinctive feature of joint tenancy is that when one of the owners, known as a joint tenant, dies, the deceased person's interest in that property usually passes to the surviving tenant or tenants. Steps may need to be taken to transfer the property to the survivor's name. Unless you're the last surviving tenant, the property that you held in joint tenancy is not normally subject to probate proceedings when you die. This is because joint tenancy provides for the automatic transfer of your interest in that property to the surviving joint tenant or tenants upon your death. Advantages of joint tenancy may include the avoidance of probate of the decedent's estate with respect to that property; the ease and speed associated with the automatic transfer of ownership of the joint tenancy property, and, under many circumstances, the joint tenancy property is not subject to liens or claims by creditors of the deceased joint tenants, except for taxes. Disadvantages of joint tenancy include the possibility that a joint tenant who contributed little or nothing to the original purchase may be entitled to an equal share of the proceeds upon the sale of the property; that persons who you wish to have a share in the property upon your death may never receive their share; that the creation of a joint tenancy may have adverse gift or estate tax consequences; and that creation of joint tenancy may expose the property to creditor's claims against other joint tenants while the other joint tenants are living. For more information on joint tenancy, consult a qualified attorney.
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