Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common: Which is Right for Me?

There are a number of ways in which individuals can take title to property. People who are not married to each other can own real property as tenants-in-common (TIC) or as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Co-owners who are TIC each own a share of the real property and have the right to sell or transfer their own share to whomever they want without the consent of the other owners. TIC need not own equal interests in the property.  Since the ownership interests of TIC may not be the same for each co-owner, it is important that the percentage of the property owned by each TIC is set forth on the deed.

TIC each have a responsibility to pay expenses relating to the property in proportion to their ownership interest. If a TIC fails to contribute to the upkeep of the property or the payment of the necessary carrying costs, the other TIC can bring an action to compel the delinquent owner to pay his share.

Another way in which more than one person may take title to real property is as joint tenants with right of survivorship. As joint tenants, it is assumed that each owner owns the entire property. Unlike a TIC who is free to sell or otherwise transfer his interest to a third party without consent of the other owners, a joint tenant is restrained from doing so. Joint tenants cannot sell or encumber the property without the consent and signature of the other joint tenants. In addition, a joint tenant cannot leave his share of the property to someone in a Will. That is because the right of survivorship essentially guarantees that the “last person standing” is the sole owner of the entire property.

Married couples who wish to own property jointly with the right of survivorship can own property as tenants in the entirety. With a few exceptions, the rules governing other types of joint tenancies also govern tenants in the entirety. Since  there are pros and cons to each type of ownership, it is important to consult with an attorney before deciding on how you wish to take title to your property.

Linda M. Toga of The Law Offices of Linda M. Toga, P.C. is an East Setauket, New York attorney with a general law practice focusing on estate planning, real estate, marital planning, small business services and litigation.