What is Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

People who own property can take title to it in different ways.  It is important to make an informed choice about how you wish to hold property that you own, especially if someone else also has an ownership interest in. The decision that you make on this issue can affect your right to use the property; your right to sell the property; and your right to will the property to someone else after death.

One way to take title is joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. This is a common way to own real estate, but other property can also be owned by joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  Joint tenancy has an impact on how property is transferred after death, so it is important to speak with an experienced Phoenix, AZ estate planning lawyer to determine if a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is the right way for you to own property. Singer Pistiner, P.C. has extensive experience helping clients with all aspects of estate planning. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn how an attorney can help you to protect your property and plan ahead for the future.

Understanding Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship can be a way to hold title when two or more people have a shared interest in a property. The individual owners are called joint tenants. Each of the owners has an equal share of the property. Each of the owners also has an equal and undivided right to either keep of the property or to dispose of it (sell it, transfer it or give it away).

When owners own property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the owners have a right to automatically inherit upon death. This means that if one of the co-owners of the property passes away, the remainder of that person’s interest in property is transferred to the surviving owners. The property does not have to pass through the probate process. Furthermore, it does not matter what any of the owners puts in a will or an estate planning document regarding what should happen to the property. Regardless of the owner’s wishes at the time of death, the property must automatically transfer to the other joint tenants.

If the property is sold, the laws related to joint tenancy also require that the owners divide the proceeds of the sale equally.  However, if just one of the joint tenants decides to transfer his or her interest in the property to someone else, then the joint tenancy is broken. The new owner who takes title to the property will own the property with the other owners as a tenancy in common.

A joint tenancy can only exist when four things are true:

  • All of the joint tenants/owners have an equal undivided interest in the whole property. None of the joint tenants has a  bigger ownership share than the others.
  • The estates of all of the joint tenants are unalterable and fixed (vested) for the same period of time.
  • All of the joint tenants hold the shared property under the same title.
  • All of the joint tenants will have the same rights to the property until one of the owners/joint tenants dies.

The last tenant to remain alive will have a 100 percent interest in the property because all of the other joint tenant’s ownership shares will have transferred to him.

Determining whether you can, or should, own property in a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship can be very complicated. Contact  a Phoenix, AZ estate planning lawyer today to learn about your legal rights for owning property and planning for the transfer of that property after your death.