There are three ways to hold real estate in joint ownership. Joint tenancy is one way and is common among married couples or other life partners. Joint tenancy is often stated as Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship and sometimes shown on contracts by its acronym JTWROS. This way of holding title makes the transition of ownership between spouses easy when one of them dies and avoids some of the complications of probate.
Joint tenancy means that all parties have undivided ownership in the whole property. Each owner does not own a fraction of the property, rather each owner owns the whole property together with all other joint tenants. Unlike Tenants in Common, one owner cannot divide the property and sell a share of it.
Joint tenancy creates a right of survivorship that means the whole property belongs to any surviving joint tenant when one of them dies. If there is more than one surviving joint tenant the property becomes the property of all remaining and the joint tenancy is still intact among them. They still own undivided whole ownership together.
The way property is held, whether it be joint tenancy, tenants in common or tenants by the entirety, is indicated on the property deed or bill of sale or any contract of conveyance of real or personal property.
If the property is sold all joint tenants are entitle to an equal share of the proceeds. A court can order a joint tenancy property to be split among the owners when there is a dispute and allow one person to sell his or her share.
A joint tenancy can be dissolved by court ordered partition or by voluntary conveyance or sale to the other joint tenants or by sale of the property and the division of proceeds. In some cases the property may be partitioned by the court to create a tenancy in common which will then allow any tenant to sell his or her share. If a share is sold then the new owner is a tenant in common with the other owners.
A joint tenancy can be created when a person who previously is the sole owner of a property marries by using a Quit Claim deed. The basic procedure is to quit claim the deed from the one who is the current sole owner to both names of the newlyweds. For example John Smith who owns a home marries Jane Johnson and wishes for the home to now be put into both of their names as Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship. The Quit Claim deed would have John Smith convey the property to John Smith (himself) and Jane Johnson Smith as JTWROS.
Holding real estate with another is a legal matter that requires contracts and the proper application of state laws. It is always important to get legal counsel before entering into any real estate transaction. Furthermore, the Statute of Frauds requires all real estate transactions to be in writing.