Joint Tenants v Tenants In Common

What’s the difference between Joint Tenant and Tenant In Common?

Individuals may hold land or property in two ways: as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. What’s the difference?

Property held as ‘Joint Tenants’ denotes property that is held by two persons or more that upon death property held as Joint Tenants automatically passes to the survivor. Family members such as a parent and a child, or persons who are married or in a relationship often already own property with their partner as joint tenants, for example a joint bank account.

Property held as ‘Tenants in Common’ denotes ownership in property in which each share, on the death of its owner, does not pass to the survivor or survivors, but passes to the beneficiaries under the will or under intestacy. In effect, each share is in fact separated from the other co-owner(s). Property held as a Tenant in Common may therefore be recorded as being held as a 50% share, 1% share or any percentage at all.

Should I hold property as Joint Tenants or Tenants In Common?

The overwhelming distinction in holding property as Joint Tenants is that upon death property held as Joint Tenants automatically passes to the survivor or survivors (this is called the ‘Right of Survivorship’). The Right of Survivorship also means that the asset does not form part of the deceased’s estate. For some persons this Right of Survivorship is viewed as an advantage as the interest of the joint tenant passes automatically on death, and depending on other circumstances, there may not be the need to obtain a Grant of Probate. This in turn may save time and money.

It is for this reason that some persons may wish to record property ownership, in particular, real estate, as ‘Joint Tenants’.

It is for the same reason that property owners may choose to record ownership as Tenants in Common, as ach share on the death of the owner does not pass to the survivor or survivors but passes to the beneficiaries under the will or under intestacy. For instance, in circumstances where property is being purchased by business partners, siblings or by married couples. Those individuals may wish to ensure that their percentage of the property passes to their named beneficiaries under their Will, and not automatically to the surviving joint owner.

How do I know if I own my house as Joint Tenants?

Deeds of Conveyance or Transfer vesting an interest in land or property are recorded in the Land Registry Department following the purchase of the property. An Attorney-at-Law can conduct a search of the Register of Titles to ascertain ownership details on the Transfer, and provide you with advice on your ownership, taking into account all your circumstances.

An Attorney-at-Law may assist you in changing ownership from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common.

What if I purchased property with another person, but the Deed did not specify whether ownership is as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

If a property is purchased by two or more persons and there are no words specifying whether the ownership is to be ‘Joint Tenants’ or ‘Tenants In Common’, then there is a presumption in law that deems the parties hold the property as ‘Joint Tenants’.

These days it is unlikely that an Attorney-at-Law would record a Deed of Conveyance or Transfer involving two or more parties without reflecting the express instructions of whether the parties wish to hold the property as ‘Joint Tenants’ or ‘Tenants in Common’.

Don’t know whether your home is owned as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common? Contact Pinebridge Law and we will be happy to assist you.

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