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Joint Ownership of Real Property- Different Ways Real Property can be Titled

Title to real property can be held in three different ways; tenants by the entirety, tenants in common, and joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

Tenants by the entirety- the property is owned by a married couple.  The deed will usually state the parties as husband wife. For example the deed would say “John Doe and Jane Doe, husband and wife” or “John Doe and Jane Doe, his wife.” When one spouse passes away the property will pass automatically to the surviving spouse.

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan and his wife Brittany own property as tenants by the entirety in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Daredevil Dan tried swimming from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governor’s Island.  He made it to Governor’s Island successfully but caught something swimming in the East River, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.   The Park Slope property would pass automatically to Brittany.

 

Tenants in Common- the property is owned by more than one person in what could be various percentages. A person with a tenants in common interest can sell or transfer their interest without notifying the other owners. They can leave their interest to a person in their will or if they do not leave a will their interest would pass to their heirs at law.  A person with a tenants in common interest has the right to live in the property without paying rent.

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan, his brother Kenneth, and his friend Adam purchase a property in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  They each own one-third (1/3) of the property as tenants in common.  Daredevil Dan tried a stunt which involved jumping a shark, he failed, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.  Daredevil Dan in his will left the Bushwick property to his friend, Christopher. Christopher would now be a one-third (1/3) owner of the property and would have the right to live in the property without paying rent.

 

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship-  the property will pass automatically to the co-owner upon the first person to pass away. The deed must state joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  For example, the deed would say “John Doe and Mary Smith as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”  A joint tenancy with rights of survivorship can be unilaterally severed to a tenants in common titling. The joint tenant would deed themselves their interest in the property from joint tenants with rights of survivorship to a tenants in common interest. For example the deed’s language would be “John Doe with a joint tenants with rights of survivorship interest as party in the first part to John Doe as tenant in common as party in the second part.”

Daredevil Dan Example:

Daredevil Dan and his friend Sophie own a property on the Upper East Side of Manhattan as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Daredevil Dan was walking down the street when a piano fell on his head, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan.   Sophie would now own the property on the Upper East Side.

Do not transfer or re-title property without consulting an attorney.  For more information regarding the titling of real property, contact Ira K. Miller & Associates