As with the tenancy in common, the joint tenancy is created in two or more grantees. The following example demonstrates how a joint tenancy is created by deed:

Example: A, owner of Lot 10 of Thompson Subdivision, conveys to B and C, as joint tenants. Notice the words used after C. The words “as joint tenants” must be used in the body of the deed to effectively create the estate of joint tenancy.

Discussion

As with the tenancy in common, all joint tenants have the right to occupy and use the premises on equal footing with the other tenants. Unlike the tenancy in common, joint tenants are not free to apportion their ownership interests. In other words, you can’t have Bill Smith owning a 75% interest and Bob Jones owning a 25% interest when the holding is in joint tenancy. The reason is that the joint tenancy is considered “a whole.” Each tenant is an equal part of the whole. Thus, to apportion ownership interests would fly in the face of the purpose of a joint tenancy.

Conveyance by co-tenant.

When property is held in joint tenancy, a conveyance by one joint tenant will act to sever the joint tenancy.

Example: Let’s say that Bill Smith and Bob Jones hold title as joint tenants. Subsequently, Bill Smith decides to convey his interest to Pam Thomas.

How does this conveyance affect the joint tenancy?

This conveyance severs the joint tenancy and renders a “tenancy in common” between Bob Jones and Pam Thomas. It’s a bit tricky, but something a homeowner should be aware of. The joint tenancy can be severed by the conveyance out from an existing joint tenant.

Death of co-tenant. 

The unique characteristic of a joint tenancy is the survivorship element. Let me demonstrate this using the following scenario.

Title is held by Bill Smith and Bob Jones, as joint tenants.

Bill Smith subsequently dies. At this moment, full ownership of the property will be held by Bob Jones. Remember that Bill and Bob, as joint tenants, are considered owners of the whole. When Bill dies, Bob Jones continues on as the owner of the whole.

The joint tenancy allows the parties to avoid probate of a deceased joint tenant. Compare this result to that of the tenancy in common, in which an estate will be opened concerning a deceased. This is the main reason that most people desire the joint tenancy form of ownership.

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