When it comes to taking title to a property, clients can often get confused by the two ways commonly used to go on title. The terms “Joint Tenant” and “Tenant in Common” are very different and have serious impacts depending on which you choose. Depending on which you choose, it will primarily impact your estate plan. We review this in detail with our clients because unanticipated issues may arise depending on how you proceed.
Here is what you need to know:
Joint tenants enjoy the right to survivorship. To put it simply, when one of the joint tenant’s pass, their ownership interest automatically passes to the other joint tenant(s). This manner of taking title is commonly how spouses (primarily first marriages) take title to the property and is a common estate planning tool to keep your interest in the property out of probate. Where you are a joint tenant, your interest in the property would not be “caught” by the will and passes out of your estate. Upon one joint tenant’s death, a survivorship application is filed which shows that the surviving joint tenant(s) are now the sole owner(s).
Tenants in Common
Tenants in common have a different ownership structure than joint tenants. Each person or title can own a percentage of interest in the property, separate from the other owner(s). On passing, their interest does not pass to the other individual(s); instead, it forms part of their estate and passes to their beneficiaries by way of a transmission application. Unmarried spouses commonly take title this way. It makes sense as an estate planning tool to take title as tenants in common if you have children from a previous relationship and you want to protect their interests in the future. We also advise having a valid will and an ownership agreement in place.
What you need to consider
When buying a property with another person or person(s), it is important to consider how to structure ownership to best reflect your circumstances and dynamics. We suggest that parties speak with us early (before buying).