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What is the difference between tenants in common and joint tenants?

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Quick Answer

Primary differences between tenants in common and joint tenants involve the percentage of ownership of a property and what happens to that percentage when an owner dies, according to The Law Dictionary. In the case of joint tenants, each person has a specific percentage of ownership in a property. These do not have to be equal percentages. When one owner dies, that percentage of the property is distributed according to that owner's will.

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Full Answer

In the case of joint tenants, each participant owns the same percentage of a property, explains The Law Dictionary. For instance, four joint tenants each own one-quarter of a property. When one owner dies, that percentage is divided equally among the other joint tenants. The property does not become part of the deceased's estate.

With tenancy in common, all participants have not necessarily become owners at the same time, reports FindLaw. However, joint tenants obtain their shares simultaneously. The ownership system used by married couples typically depends upon the state.

If one of the joint tenants sells or transfers a share, the relationship changes to tenancy in common for all parties, states FindLaw. Tenancy in common is severed when owners buy each other out, all owners agree to sell to an outsider, or an heir is allowed by the court to sell a share.

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