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.
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.
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.
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."
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images