The Difference Between Joint Tenants & Tenants in Common

By Carol Wiley
Consult your lawyer.

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Joint tenants and tenants in common are both legal ways that two or more people can own property together.

Right of Survivorship

According to the American Bar Association Family Legal Guide, the main difference between joint tenants and tenants in common is that joint tenants have the right of survivorship (which gives them ownership of the property when one owner dies) while tenants in common do not.

Joint Tenants

If a joint tenant dies, the property avoids probate and automatically belongs to the other owner or owners. For example, if the property has four owners and one dies, the three surviving owners then each have a one-third interest in the property.

Tenants in Common

If property owners are tenants in common and one dies, the other owners receive the deceased person's interest in the property only if so specified in that person's will or by inheritance law.

Considerations

With tenants in common, an owner can leave his share of the property to anyone, which means that the other owners may find themselves owning property with someone they don't want to own property with.

Caution

According to the Supreme Court of Florida, "as joint tenants" is an ambiguous phrase while the precise legal phrases are "tenancy in common" and "joint tenancy with right of survivorship."

About the Author

Carol Wiley started writing as a technical writer/editor in 1990, was a licensed massage therapist for almost 12 years and has been writing Web content since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering, a Master of Business Administration, a Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing and a Certificate in Massage Therapy.