Right of survivorship in Washington state can be complicated by the state's community property laws. While community property laws only affect those in domestic partnerships, the laws about tenants in common, joint tenancy and bank accounts affect everyone. The right of survivorship entitles a surviving owner to the interest that was held by a deceased owner.
Tenants in Common
In Washington state, a domestic partnership or married couple are considered to hold their property as tenants in common unless they specify it as a joint tenancy. All tenants in common have equal rights to possess the property, but they do not have the right of survivorship. Right of survivorship only comes with joint tenancies.
A joint tenancy occurs when two or more co-owners who have the same size shares in the property are given possession by the same document. This document must clearly state that the agreement is a joint tenancy or it will be assumed that the owners are tenants in common.
One exception to the joint tenancy law is bank accounts. In order for a bank account to have the right of survivorship, it must be opened as a "Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship" account and not just as a "Joint Account" or a "Joint Tenancy" account.