What Is the Difference Between Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common?


Quick Answer

Whereas joint tenancy gives each individual listed on a title undivided shares of a home, tenants in common may own more, less or equal percentage of the property, according to SFGate. If no form of ownership is chosen when a home is first purchased, it's often considered a tenants-in-common ownership by courts in the United States.

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Full Answer

Homes owned by married couples often are classified as joint tenancy ownership, notes SFGate. There is equal ownership of interest and shares, but the arrangement can be dissolved if one of the spouses sells ownership to someone else. Should this happen, ownership of the home becomes a tenants-in-common situation.

A tenants-in-common ownership in which there are only two owners who have equal ownership of the property can technically be considered an informal joint tenancy, according to SFGate. But there are tenants-in-common ownerships in which one of the tenants owns a larger percentage of the home.

Married couples should make sure they have the right of survivorship by choosing joint tenancy, notes SFGate. This ensures the surviving spouse assumes automatic full ownership of the property without having to go through the probate process. Right of survivorship is not automatic for tenants in common. Should an owner in a tenants-in-common ownership arrangement die, the entire state can go through the probate process.

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