There are a number of ways in which more than one individual can own a piece of real estate or other type of property (financial account, automobile). One ownership scheme is known as joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. This is commonly utilized between a husband and wife, parent and child, business partners and other individuals who want to bypass the estate process when a co-owner of the property at issue dies.
Joint tenants in common with surviorship rights, during their lifetimes, have a shared ownership interest in real estate or other types of property. The ownership interest extinguishes on the death of a co-owner. The rights to that individual's interest in the property pass to the surviving co-owner or co-owners.
Rights and Duties of Co-Owners
Each owner has an unrestricted right of access to the property. If a co-owner interferes with that right, the individual who experiences an interference with his property rights can take legal action. If the property generates income--for example, commercial real estate--each owner is entitled to an accounting of revenue, expenses and profits. Each owner is entitled to a pro-rata share of profits. Each owner has a duty to contribute to the expenses of the property, also on a pro-rata basis.
A significant feature of this type of ownership scheme centers on the right of survivorship. When one of the the co-owners of the real estate or other type of property dies, that individual's interest passes automatically and by operation of law to the the surviving owner or owners. The heirs of the deceased individual have absolutely no claim to that individual's interest in this particular property. When the last co-owner dies, the property will pass through that individual's estate.
In order for a legally enforceable joint tenancy with rights of survivorship to be created, what commonly is referred to as four unities must exist. First, the owners must obtain ownership of the property at the same time. Second, the owners need the same title (including the same conditions) to the property. Third, the owners must have the same type of legal interest in the property. Finally, each owner must have a full and equal right to possession of the entire property.
Creating a Joint Tenancy with Survivorship Rights
Creating a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship requires the use of explicit, precise language. In establishing such an ownership interest, words to the effect of "joint tenants with right of survivorship" or even the common abbreviation of "JTWROS" must be included on the title or other legal document establishing ownership.